Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sarrafiya Bridge Comments Summary

Having just received a heartbreaking email from the one Iraqi friend that this terrible war has produced, one of my first reactions to yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech was to remember Iraq. As the minutes and hours passed news of the massacre echoed across the country until the full light of media scrutiny was shining on that horrible scene. As the day wore on I kept hearing in the background the same thought...This kind of thing happens in Iraq with regularity...at least weekly and sometimes daily for several days in a stretch.

I cannot imagine what the effect must be on everyday people. If no one we know personally is involved and our hearts can be broken by the untimely death of strangers, how much more gut-wrenching it must be to have friends and family members fall victim to such losses. The details of the Virginia Tech tragedy have not been revealed, but in the end it makes little difference to the victims, their families and acquaintances. Grief is bigger than reason in the same way that paper covers rock.

And grief knows no boundaries. It's not always triggered by human death. We grieve all kinds of losses. When children get married we grieve for their lost childhood. When pets die we grieve their absence. We watch helplessly as age takes a corrosive toll on those who live into their nineties and beyond, taking physical, mental and emotional health a little at a time...

And sometimes the loss of a landmark (recall the World Trade Center...not just the thousands who died but the image it represented) hits us particularly hard. I know. It's too soon to start looking for symbols. At this writing the the next of kin are still being notified. But if I don't make a note of my thoughts at this moment, I will lose track. Please excuse my jumping ahead.








The destruction of the Sarrafiya Bridge took place on the same day that another explosion killed several members of the Iraqi parliament. In dramatic symbolic contrast the loss of the bridge seems to have grieved Iraqis far more deeply than the loss of a few politicians. Several said as much. The same sentiment is reflected in the email I received...

I have been particularly ‘under the weather’ these past couple of days. Bombing that Sarrafiya bridge somehow touched a raw nerve. I loved that old thing. I must have crossed it many thousands of times in my days. It is even mentioned in a couple of old songs you know! I couldn’t bring myself to think about the incident which took place in Parliament on the same day. I just kept feeling sad about that bridge. Wicked of me, I know… but there you are!!! By the way, do you know if that bridge is Sunni or Shiite?

Well, actually I didn't know. And the distinction was immaterial to the many people in Baghdad who simply loved and used the bridge. (According to my reading, the bridge was built by the British a hundred years ago.) The point was simple. That bridge was trans-sectarian. Asking if it were Sunni or Shiite is like asking if the lady we call the Statue of Liberty was a Democrat or a Republican.

May the grief we feel today rekindle in us the capacity to grieve with people everywhere whose losses also bring them to tears. This is not a time for reason. Grief is bigger than reason. Today is a time to feel.

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