Saturday, May 30, 2009

So strong, the shrapnels just bounce off!

I rarely mention this story, simply because some might wrongly interpret it as maybe bragging. So, so many people were badly wounded, crippled, and sadly, many have died from wounds inflicted by shrapnels from grenades, that my scar on the arm seems as a minor scratch and only as a reminder of other kids who suffered in that same incident.

The grenades are a nasty thing. They are so much worse than snipers, whose bullets are smooth and go straight though the tissue. The grenades are filled with metal, which, when grenade explodes, shreds into small sharp and rugged pieces. These shrapnels, combined with pieces of concrete or other material the grenade hits, create thousands of very destructive particles. Even the small pieces tear the tissue in different directions and leave large scars. The wounds get easily infected because of all the debris carried in and the cleaning is very painful. A good friend of mine got a pass-through wound on her shoulder, which had to be cleaned daily by pulling yards and yards of gaze through it, without any absolute horrible thing!

Our neighborhood, Dobrinja, was positioned between the Bosnian and Serb army on the either end, and the airport and a hill on the other two sides. The two sides would send grenades over the buildings. Our building was along an avenue that ran the entire length of the neighborhood, which was about 1 mile. The armies often used these custom missiles that combined three grenades mounted onto a small motor. These were supposed to better control the distance. Those contraptions made a distinctive noise and were moving slower than regular grenades, so with that sound, we could almost follow them as they travelled from one side to the other.

In the summer of 1995, the frequent shooting was forcing us to stay inside most of the time. I spent many days studying on the balcony that faced the avenue. Even though grenades were traveling on the skies above, the faint fact that missiles were not falling between the buildings allowed me to sit outside, but constantly aware of their frequent sound.

On one particular day I was taking a break from the book to do some laundry hand-washing in a baby-tub on the balcony. As I was leaned over, a grenade landed on the sidewalk on the corner of the building across from ours. Now, someone who has been through the war from the day one might have instinctively jump to the ground to the sound of a grenade, but my instinct was to raise my head to see what just happened. As I did that, I distinctly remember seeing three shrapnels traveling my way and one hit me in the right arm. Actually, after hitting my flesh, burring the skin and making an imprint, it bounced off. The other two pieces missed me. I believe that if I was still bent over the tub, or attempted to squat down, the shrapnels would have hit me in the head.

I was bleeding for a little bit, and my arm swelled, but I was fine. My mom was so upset and she threw the three metal pieces off of the balcony, which I hoped she didn't do so I could have saved the metal with the same shape as my scar. :) We put some covering over my wound, but the real frenzy became to figure out where my brother was. He was supposed to be with a friend in the building in front of which the grenade fell, and they usually hang out right at the entrance. (many kids usually played in this area) His mother told us my brother was not there. Mom tried to run out to the site, because there were many wounded and killed at the scene, but the police stopped the people from approaching. Sadly, often times it happened that after a grenade kills many people at one spot, few minutes later, after others have gathered to check on them and carry them away, another grenade would be sent to the same spot or to the closest hospital that would be accepting those victims, so as to kill as many more people as possible. The police tried to stop that. The ambulance cars were loading the wounded, limp and bloody bodies, and my mom was panicking that my brother could be one of them. Mom was screaming here lungs out maybe an hour or two, until my brother came back, totally clueless of the magnitude of stress his absence has caused us. He was with a friend in the nearby neighborhood, some half an hour away, and he only heard people on the streets talking about the massacre in Dobrinja. After he was accounted for, and the sirens outside have died down, I went to the hospital, twenty minutes walk away.

They were still working on the kids with more serious wounds. One boy, around 13, had a shrapnel on his behind. He was laying on his stomach, his mom comforting him, as the doctors tried to stitch him up. Another little girl, maybe 5 years old, got hit in the heal as she was running up the stairs away from the explosion. I felt embarrassed to be there for my little wound. They cleaned it up, made sure there were no pieces in there, put some gaze and bandages on it, and told me to come every day for two weeks for cleaning. I wasn't happy with that thought, knowing what that usually means. They were actually taking the scab that formed every day off, to make the wound open and clean of infections. This has caused the bumpy scar to remain instead of skin being smooth.

The nurses made a list of everyone injured and killed and gave it to the news station, as they usually did. They reported it on the radio and TV, so that relatives would find out as most phone lines were not working. The next day my family from another part of Bosnia were calling after they heard my name, and not knowing how bad I was hurt. Again, it was a somewhat embarrassing position to be in and explain I was really fine. I was all right. I just received a scar, maybe more on the inside than the outside, as a reminder of this event. My life was saved, by the grace of God, in that moment of curiosity that made me look up instead of jump down.

No comments:

Post a Comment