Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Fire! Gone in a minute

Maram Faraj | 22-04-2021

Children play with fireworks during Ramadan

It was 9:17 p.m. (Yes, I know exactly what time it was! The moment will forever stand out in my mind.) I was washing the dishes after my family had broken our Ramadan fast when a couple of boys ran to our front door, screaming,  "Your house is on fire." Flames, they said, were licking out of the first-floor window of what was my bedroom.

My mom was praying, my father was sleeping, my brother was out and his wife was reading the holy Quran. When my mom heard the boys’ screams, she abruptly stopped her prayer and ran to my bedroom. I always kept my door closed since I am obsessed with tidiness and my little niece has a tendency to wander in and cause trouble. 

When my mom opened the door, we could see my room was indeed aflame. She yelled, "Maram, stay away!! Your room is burning down!" At that moment, dozens of people from the neighborhood ran in to try to put out the fire. As the house filled with smoke, I just stood there, traumatized at the sight of my lovely room falling apart. 

One of my female neighbors came searching for me, and when she found me she slapped my face, trying to slap some sense into me. "Maram, wake up! You should go out now! It is dangerous!” I acted mindlessly, pushing her away as I tried to run to save my burning clothes and blanket. However, a man grabbed my arms and tried to push me away. 

I saw my niece laying on the living room floor, hardly breathing. I hugged her to my chest and ran outside with her. It was an hour before the firemen arrived and put out the fire. 

"Alhamdullah, everything is good now,” my brother said, trying to console me. “But, Maram, I am so sorry, your room is… is..." I interrupted, saying, "Do you mean my room is utterly destroyed?" He remained silent. I had lost everything. I had nothing left but the clothes I was wearing. Even my mobile phone had been in my bedroom and was now ashes. I couldn't believe it was real. I’ve had nightmares before, but no, I was wide awake. My legs failed to hold my body and I passed out.

I regained consciousness five minutes later. My mom hugged me, kissing my forehead gently. I pulled myself together and whispered, "Alhamdullah. We are safe." 

What had caused my house to almost burn down? The boys had been playing with fireworks, and sparks had blown in through my window. Fireworks are a traditional form of celebration during the holy month of Ramadan. They had just been having fun, but we might have lost our lives as a result. We could have been sleeping. Families need to be aware of the consequences of what is otherwise a simple joy.

After a sleepless night, my father and I returned to our house. My dad tried to prevent me from returning to my room, but I was stubborn. When I saw that the room in which I had spent so much of my life had turned into ash, I collapsed. I cried and searched for anything still usable. The smell of fire was strong; my scent was gone. Nothing was left except a photo of me when I was young. 

I know we will replace my room. I know I will buy new clothes, new shoes, etc. But my memories will remain, stuck in my heart like a tattoo. I felt homeless; my room had been my refuge, my shelter. I stared at the ruins of my room for hours. 

"Maram, we should go; it is not safe here." My father cut off my train of thoughts and held my hand as we left the house. 

This disaster has shown me who sincerely loves and cares for me. My mom has been so supportive; she helped me remember that Allah is guarding us from above. I also reunited with my best friend; we had been estranged since getting into a fight. She even invited me to her home to stay until my house is repaired. My other friend, Omar, sat with me even when I wasn’t up to talking. And, of course, there is the team of We Are Not Numbers, who gave me unlimited love and support. Even people I do not know at all came to my aid. The day after the fire, an anonymous girl brought some new clothes and cash.  

Thanks to all of the support, I have almost made my peace with what happened. I will make new memories, even better ones. The old memories will always be in my heart but with new company. Life has its ups and downs, but it goes on and we must seize and savor every single moment by never losing our faith in Allah, the merciful. 

 

Posted: April 21, 2021

Mentor: Pam Bailey


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