16 years

Today marks the 16th anniversary of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. On that day, I woke up to fighter jets. My mom snuck into my room and took my boombox radio because TV wasn’t working and no one else in the house had a radio. We huddled and worried and cried. Weeks later, I wore my rockin’ fuschia pants, lime green hightops, and a black t-shirt, and we– my dad, mom, brother, sister, 2 cousins, uncle, aunt, and a woman, man, and their 20-year-old son, Canadians we were helping escape with forged documents– piled into a minivan and a sedan, and fled the country with our bare necessities. We went north, through Iraq, and stopped at various checkpoints. I had never seen Iraq before. It was beautiful and warm. Then we drove through Jordan, where my immediate family stayed for a night before we flew to Egypt.

I can’t believe it’s been 16 years. An exodus can expand in your memory so comfortably.

I’ve wondered so many times: who would I have become if I hadn’t experienced that? My family would have never moved to the US. I would have finished high school in Kuwait and gone to university in Lebanon. I would never have met my friends…or my son’s father. I would never have had my son. I would be so different.

So on the day they hang Saddam for all his sins, many will dance. Many will weep with pity, sadness, and relief. Many will turn their eyes. I will do all three.

7 thoughts on “16 years

  1. I am very touched by your post here. On that day in which a new fear entered your life, i was sitting in a hospital bed recuperating from a tonsillectomy. It is weird knowing that our lives coexisted at that moment, and intersected through the images I watched on a television. I had no feeling of personal connection though I felt sorrow and shock.

    You have given me a personal connection now, and i really honor that.

    Weeks later while you had to leave your country, I was taking senior class pictures for high school. What a world.

    I also admire your bravery and strong heart for seeing your experience as such a whole, instead of full of holes.

    Indeed, what would your life have been like? There is a story there.

  2. Funny – I didn’t realise you’d lived in Kuwait as well. Had no idea it’s been 16 years until you pointed it out. 16 years!! We stayed in Kuwait for a month and a half during the invasion. Then, like your family, we packed everything into our car one day, gave away our cat (never saw her again), drove through Iraq, then Jordan (where our beloved Filipino nanny was deported) – then crossed to Egypt by ferry. Unlike your family, thought, we stayed in Egypt for about a year then returned to Kuwait and finished high school there. I wrote a children’s book about it.
    Funny – you were there too.

  3. dude, you forgot me in your list of people smushed in the car. i am very hurt.
    how bizarre….. why do you think that is?

  4. OMG donia, i can’t believe i forgot you in the list! weird!

    also, i think you don’t remember that it was weeks because you were, um, FOUR YEARS OLD!

  5. hey reformed cynic, that *is* funny!
    my family would have returned to kuwait after our one year in egypt if kuwait hadn’t refused entry to all palestinian ex-residents.

  6. I was a clueless American 18 y.o. at the time (as opposed to the clueless 34 y.o. I am now). And my friends and I were too busy trying to figure out how the draft worked to pay much attention to what was actually going on.

    Years later, I knew someone with a very similar story to yours, and I’m now feeling like a schmuck for not asking about the way she fled Kuwait. It’s partially a matter of my self-diagnosed Asperger’s, but I think that us non-Arab-Americans also have a pretty hard time grasping the fact that the Middle East is a real place. Maybe what we need is some Arab-American fiction. Just a thought. Love your stuff.

  7. Hey Starcat:
    Yes, we do need arab-american fiction 🙂
    Most people here were clueless about the invasion, and the 1st gulf war, so you need not feel like a schmuck.
    Thanks for your encouragement.

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