The first time I heard the sound of a gunfire I was about sixteen.
I’m not sure exactly of the day or where it happened, but I know it was during the uprising of the year 2000. Every time I heard it, I’d stop, alarmed, and listened to it until it stopped.
Tac, tac, tac, or the tatatatatata of submachines became a daily sound – the background noise that took up the beautiful sound of the birds singing.
It went as far as the fact that after a while, I was able to identify the sound of m16, m18, live bullets or dummies, and the fact that a bullet hit something or empty air.
By the time I was a senior in highschool, the conflicts had upgraded to closed roads, blockades, checkpoints, and the famous dividing wall.
Sometimes the roads were closed, and I had to walk to school, run from tanks, or detour through the mountains to reach school. Some of my friends who lived farther from me and had to cross through more checkpoints or blockades sometimes couldn’t reach school, and if they could, they couldn’t get back home.
However, despite all these difficulties, life went on. People got married, people had children; people went to work, to college, had parties and so on, even with the background sound of bombs and report of gunfire, the awful breaking news.
My brother and I would stop in alarm to listen, identify bombs, gas bombs, bullets, tanks, air attacks, sometimes even pinpoint from where it came from and where it hit (sometimes we were right, sometimes we were wrong).
Then one day things quited down, though it didn’t stop completely. The checkpoints and the wall stayed, but some of the blockades were removed, and we were able to come and go with more ease – though not everywhere.
A few years later I got married, and I left the country to start a life somewhere else.
It was then that I realized that I was missing my peace of mind – because I found it again.
I was already blind when I returned, because most of my family lived here and I missed them and needed someone to help me figure out how to move on with a disability.
I had a baby then, but things were mostly quiet. No bombs, no report of gunfire – except for the occasional ones, which were far from where I lived, so I didn’t have to listen to it.
But in these past few years, things began escalating again. Conflicts would break out, the report of gunfire could be heard more frequently from my home, and sometimes the occasional bomb would go off.
I have three kids now, and I don’t like the violence they are growing up with. I hadn’t really realized how this ‘bursts’ of conflicts were affecting them until a few days ago when that horrible sound of gunfire happened near my home. My daughter and my youngest were playing outside (five and three) and the tac, tac, tac, tac, tac came. I stopped doing the dishes to see if I could hear my eldest son, playing farther away with the neighboring kids, to assure myself that he was safe.
and I heard my daughter telling my youngest, “hear that? It’s the sound of gunfire.” And they continued playing as if that was the most natural sound to be heard.
That fact alarmed me more than the gunfire, because it dawned on me that my kids don’t understand that the sound of violence is not a natural thing. It’s something to be alarmed, shocked and even afraid.
And it’s not even like the conflict is a real conflict. No, it’s between fresh soldiers aged 17 – twenty some practicing with live bullets and kids between eleven and twenty some throwing rocks.
All the major players are sitting behind a desk enjoying a cup of coffee and their safety, doing nothing.
Sometimes I want nothing more than to pick up my kids and leve, but that option is not available to me at the moment for so many reasons.
But I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking this is something normal, a fun activity to do in their bored time once they are ‘old enough’.
And so, although I wish the conflicts here will go quiet again, I don’t think that’s the case, and so I’m considering a life away, a new home and a new beginning,, even if I know the chances that I’ll actually be able to do it are very slim.