The news reports hesitated to speak of the number of dead and injured. There were lots of reports of rescuers and damaged apartments, with the cameras trying to get as many photographs and images as possible without showing too much that could indicate death. Some shots were immediately cut short and viewers were left to wonder what the cameraman had seen next.
Lots of speculation as to who had caused the bombing was circulating in lieu of information. This, of course, led to much conversation among casual viewers, curious neighbours, and the avid political affectionados, but did nothing for those frantic to know if their loved ones were safe. There was even confusion as to which exact building it was. Some reporters had the wrong address, while others were hesitant to release the address at all.
Some anxious friends and relatives were standing at the police barricades, hoping that a closer proximity to the scene would lend them better information. The telephones to the building were broken and even those who lived in the section that had not collapsed could not reach those outside. One man had been lucky enough to get through to his cousin on a mobile phone, but that man knew nothing about any of his neighbours and it was all he could do to get himself out of the building, to which the onlooker could only tell his comrades at the barricades that he still knew nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, and from a block away, no one could even get a good glimpse of the wreckage.
All one middle-aged woman could see over the crowd was that her son’s apartment building had a hole in it. Any fires seemed to have been put out while helicopters and cranes were circling the crumbling apartments looking for news footage and survivors.
At least they were looking for survivors, the woman remarked to another woman next to her. They had ambulances. They never used ambulances for the dead and certainly never with sirens. There was hope then. Perhaps her son would be fine.
Well, of course he would be fine! He was her son. He had just been married and had a good life. He was all she had left after her husband’s death in the last war. He would be fine and so would his new wife, and since they would have to find a new apartment, they would come live with her until they did so. How delightful!
Yet the woman next to her did not share her optimism. She had heard that most of the cranes were rescuing people trapped in the part of the building that had not collapsed and removing rubble to find bodies. All of the lower floors had been crushed, along with all their inhabitants.
What floor did her son live on? For that matter, what section of the building had collapsed? She could not see clearly from her angle, nor in the dark could she remember exactly where her son’s apartment was. She would have liked to get closer. They had let some people get closer, although they were mostly men commandeered into helping with rescue efforts. No one wanted old women helping with rescue efforts – this was not wartime and the city was not under siege, one policeman had said. They did not need grandmothers to help. Another policeman, not so rude, had told her that grandmothers would be better off helping by going home and knitting blankets for the newly homeless. Wouldn’t she be more comfortable watching her television and waiting for news of her son at home?
But she refused to move, despite the cold night air and the discomfort of standing for such a long time. As she did so, dread seemed to well up within her. She was waiting just as she had been waiting for news of her husband, and that news had not been good….