ONE HELL OF A DAY |
May 04, 2007
ONE HELL OF A DAY
Posting date: 5/4/07
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Stationed in: Baghdad, Iraq
Milblog url: airborneparainf82.blogspot.com
Yesterday was one hell of a day. The day before, we'd headed out to pull overwatch over a crappy area. It was pretty uneventful, because my squad stayed back to guard the trucks while the dismounts set in. Not that I'm complaining, because overwatch usually involves a tall building and a lot of stairs, and with all the equipment, we're each carrying 50-60 extra pounds. I ended up sleeping in the truck all night, which sucked because I could not, for the life of me, get comfortable, and mosquitoes were chowing down on me like I was a full course meal.
The next morning we went out and did a little dismounted patrol around the area. Nothing exciting. Just a lot of walking and not really anything to show for it. When we got back we got a call to head out to the towers that we just built in the bad area. Apparently the IA (Iraqi Army) took a couple days to come occupy them, and during that time the tall tower had been blown to the ground, and a 155mm artillery shell IED had been placed in the other tower. We were to secure the area for EOD to come in and blow it.
We ended up pulling security in the exact same area where I had a grenade thrown at me. OK, a little unsettling, but what can you do. Hopefully if it happens again we can shoot the bastard this time. Well, not even 30 minutes into sitting there we suddenly hear a loud explosion behind us and see a dirt cloud coming from the IA check point, about 200m back from our position. They come under small arms fire and engage for about 20 minutes until things settle back down. Again, no US troops involved. Nothing else ended up happening while we were out there, which is good.
Once EOD had successfully placed a charge on the IED, we pulled our video recorders out and got an awesome video of the explosion. They set it off inside the other tower, and amazingly that tower is still standing.
We headed back to base for a quick lunch stop and to pick up our CO to go check some markets. On our way out, we got a call about an explosion in one of the markets in our area, believed to be a car bomb. Before we were even somewhat close, we could see the black smoke billowing in the sky. This definitely was not going to be good. As we got closer it became obvious how big it was going to be. When we approached the street that the blast was on, all of a sudden I no longer felt like I was living my life. I honestly felt like I was watching a movie. Hoards of people were walking away from the area, some hurt, some shook up. We then began to see emergency vechicles flying in and out of that street. Even civilians with flatbed trucks were helping. We'd see them fly by with 20 people on the back, some screaming, some helping the wounded who were lying on the bed. We were about 1/4 mile away when the street became too crowded to drive down, and we dismounts hopped out and headed down on foot.
It was utter choas down there. I honestly could not believe my eyes. It was surreal. People were being helped away from "ground zero", some of them covered in blood and wounds. Windows hundreds of meters away were shattered; glass scattered on the ground. Cars 100-200 meters away were damaged by flying debris, windows shattered, hoods bent in, blood on the paintjobs. The fires were still going strong, and the streets were soaked in the foam/water mix used to put them out. The closer we got, the more tainted the water became with an awful red. I could only imagine what it was going to look like even closer. We ended up looping around to the west end of the blast site and were probably about 25-30 meters away from where the vechicle had exploded. The ground was burned black, and every vechicle in that area was a charred mangled metal mess. People were rushing in, some trying to put out the fire, others to rescue people. Even more were simply recovering bodies.
The crowds in the area had to be in the hundreds, if not thousands. Some of them had been wounded themselves in the blast. Many of them carried expressions of sorrow on their faces. Some had anger, and even more wore expressions of confusion. They all had something to say to me as I passed, and although I do not speak their language I knew exactly what they were saying. "How could you let this happen? Do something about this!" But there was nothing I could do. I was helpless to do anything, yet people continued to plead with me. Sitting there at ground zero, I saw charred dead bodies pulled from the mangled car frames. It was the worst sight I've ever seen in my life. Every time someone would come past, pushing a body, or two or three, on a wooden cart, away from the scene, everyone in the crowd would all begin yelling "Allah Akbar" ("God is Great") over and over, along with some other phrases. They would load the bodies up on a vehicle with many helpers on back, and they would begin to chant as the vehicle sped away, sirens blaring.
All of it just did not seem real. Yet I was there, living it, experiencing it fully with my senses and emotions. I pray that I never have to see anything like that ever again. That one event has angered me more than anything else here. All this carnage and destruction in the name of God. Allah. Where in the hell is God's work in all of this? It makes no sense, and these people are crazy fanatics. I just don't understand it. Talking it over with my buddies, I estimated there had to have been at least 50 killed. The next day I was utterly shocked to read the real numbers in the news: 140 killed, 150 wounded. I'm not sure how accurate those numbers still are, because the dead and injured toll continues to rise with every hour. Truly a horrible and horrific day.