SANA’A – FROM GHOST CITY TO SHATTERED CITY
Shattered glass at Mohammed Awadh's home in Sana'a after the aistrike on 20 April 2015.
By Mohammed Awadh, Communication Officer, Save the Children Yemen
Since the start of the airstrikes on 26 March 2015, I kept asking myself when it would be my turn and constantly praying that I would not be next in line to be hit. For one month I kept myself busy reporting other people's stories, taking photos of people who had lost family members and whose homes had been destroyed, people who had left their city to protect their children and save whatever they could from getting lost. However as much as you know it could happen to you, you can never be ready for the moment it does. Unfortunately my turn came on 20 April 2015.
It is still hard to fathom that in one day an aerial attack on my city killed an estimated 39 civilians and badly injured 547. My wife was one of those injured. The explosion on that day was one of the biggest to hit our capital city since the airstrike campaign started. It hit a residential area south of Yemen's capital called Faj Attan. Every single family in Sana'a was affected by this explosion, if not physically then psychologically. Hundreds of homes and private businesses within a few kilometres of the centre of the explosion were damaged, including my own home as well as the Save the Children office.
Faj Attan is known in Sana'a to be one of the safest areas. In October 2014, two months before my wedding day, I was looking for a place to settle in with my future wife. I was lucky enough to find a house close to the Save the Children office so that my daily walk to work would only take 8 minutes. When showing me around the apartment, Abo Saleh, the owner, proudly said to me "You'll never find a place as quiet and convenient as this." I decided to go for it. After our honeymoon, my wife and I spent time setting up the apartment together to make it our own home, or our own "little piece of heaven" as my wife kept describing it.
When the airstrikes first started at the end of March, my wife and I were forced to leave our lovely home and go and stay at my father's house as it is outside the city centre. It was hard to leave the house that had become our home and which we had so grown to love. A few days before the airstrike hit, we decided to return.
On 20 April I thought it would be a normal day, just like any other day. I walked to work. At 10.34 am we heard an explosion from the office. It didn't seem very loud. Immediately the Security Manager advised us to move immediately to the "safe room" which is in the basement of the office. I grabbed my stuff and started heading downstairs when suddenly there was another huge explosion. I couldn't believe my eyes, it seemed like everything was shattering and breaking around me. I froze where I was but my colleagues were shouting at me telling me to move quickly.
As I moved towards the safe room looking around me I could see how things had been destroyed in our building. Parts of the office had turned into rubble. I picked up the phone to call my wife and she answered, "Our heaven is gone!" She kept on repeating herself over and over crying on the phone. I felt so helpless knowing she's alone in our apartment but I could not leave the office as the bombing was ongoing and it wasn't safe to be in the street.
As soon as the situation calmed down the Security Manager arranged for us to evacuate the office. The 8-minute walk to my house felt like an hour. It was shocking to see the damage which had been done to our building, but it was even worse when I saw that my wife had been injured and her face was bleeding.
I strongly believe in destiny and that it is necessary to remain optimistic and hopeful. However I really do not know what the upcoming days have in store for me, for my wife and for Yemen.
What happened to me is just one example amongst hundreds of Yemeni people who have had to go through worse experiences than me, in which many of them have witnessed their own children get killed or injured, many have lost their homes and have nowhere to go and many have been forced to move to other cities until their own city becomes safe again.