BUS 14's last stop in Jerusalem; the first Vehicle on President Bush's Road Map
By Chaim Sidman
Ramat Beit Shemesh, 6/12/03
Yesterday, I was in Jerusalem on my way to my usual Wednesday lecture in Torah. I arrived to the center of town at about 4:45 PM. Since the lecture was at 6:00PM, I decided to stop at my friend's house to rest a little to catch up on some lost sleep since I get up early every morning.
I stated to doze off, but was jolted by a loud bang which woke me up.
As I opened my eyes, I heard a loud clap which sounded like thunder and the windows shook. I was confused since there are rarely any showers during the summer in Israel. There was a short pause, and then I heard lots of screaming. I jumped up and ran outside towards the busy intersection of the "Binyan Klal", a downtown shopping center and a place of many bus stops.
As I started to approach the scene, people were running away and screaming. A woman ran up to me and grabbed me by the arms, while yelling "I am I all right?" I looked at her and saw that she wasn't visibly wounded, but was probably in shock. I told her sit down and rest, that she would be fine.
I saw lots of people running and screaming. So I started to approach the scene of the attack. It must have been less than 2 minutes that had passed before I got to the scene. I stood staring at the bus from the middle of the intersection, about fifty yards away from the scene of the bombing on Jaffa road and Pine Street.
Between me and the bus, there was lots of broken glass, and metal debris from the bus. All the windows and the window frames were blown out of the bus. The bus doors were extending out slightly, like a flap on a door that opens from the bottom, with the hinge on the top. There was a fire in the bus and a mixture of black and white smoke was billowing out of the bus from behind the driver's seat.
My mind became hazy and I thought that everyone had been evacuated. I was drawn like a magnet to the bus. As I got closer, I could see the fire more clearly and I went around from the rear of the bus to the side opposite the driver's side. As I approached the bus, a person was screaming in pain as he passed me while being helped to walk by two others after having sustained an open flesh wound.
Suddenly, I felt that I had just entered into a place that I didn't want to be. My feeling was to flee, but something was pulling me towards this. At the side door of the bus was someone in his late 20's, or early 30's who was squatting on the bottom step of the bus door. His face was covered with blood, especially his eyes. I helped to lift up the door and he climbed out on his own.
In the bus, there were about 5 or 6 volunteers trying to extricate the wounded. The front third of the bus, opposite the driver was the worst scene. Six passengers were still in their seats, having been burned from the fire. Four others were on the opposite side of the driver and two behind the driver. One was an elderly man with his head jerked back; his face charred from burns, his eyes opened, not blinking and he was not moving. A woman seated next to him, her hair singed her face also charred from burns, was not moving. Across from the elderly man sat a middle-aged woman whose face was all black from her burns and who was convulsing. Behind her, leaning on her shoulder was someone who was decapitated. Next to the woman was another woman in her 30's, her hair, face, and cloths burnt. She was thrashing with her arms, struggling to get out from under the debris that collapsed on her. There were volunteers trying to get her out. She was handed out the window, and brought to the sidewalk.
I started to choke from the smoke and got nauseated from a rancid smell of what I thought was flesh burning. At the door towards the driver, a man was lying face down and motionless on the street with one leg propped up on the step of the bus like he was thrown out of the bus from the explosion.
The volunteers were handing the wounded from a window to some of us outside. We put them down on the sidewalk while the medics attended to them, and went back to bring more. I didn't want to get on the bus, because I was afraid to move the victims. I was a EMT in the States, and I remembered that in class we were trained that during a trauma scene, the procedure was "Airway, Breathing, and Circulation (ABC). We were taught not to move a victim until we stabilized his back on a board so as not to cause spinal damage, or possibly, G-d forbid, paralyze him. However, I didn't realize that for traffic accidents this was the case, but for the scene of a bombing, it wasn't. The possibility of a second bomb was a serious consideration and therefore, it wouldn't have mattered since the choice was either live and possibly be paralyzed, or delay and get blown up if a second bomb went off. A combat evacuation of wounded had different considerations than traffic accidents. I was not previously aware of this transition. Time was of the essence, and everybody worked fast.
The ambulances finally arrived. There were so many volunteers by then that the victims on the side walks weren't visible. I saw the EMT's and medics who had arrived from the Ambulances looking into the bus, their stretchers by their sides, waiting for the wounded to be passed out. They couldn't see them on the sidewalk. I realized this and grabbed a stretcher and led them through the crowd to the victim. There were about 4 stretchers which I assisted. I would bring a stretcher to a patient and then go back and bring another to someone else. On my way back to bring another stretcher, I saw a Medic perform a tracheotomy on one of the wounded we brought out. I saw a medic insert an airway in another wounded person. I saw one of the wounded on a stretcher, and the medic covering her head with a blanket. She didn't make it.
The sappers (Bomb experts) were on the bus checking for a possible second bomb, and one officer had an obvious look of anxiety on his face. He attempted to evacuate the EMT's from the area since they spotted another bomb. I saw the woman in the window who was badly burned and she was still convulsing. I yelled to an officer that we has to get her out while she was still alive. About 4 or 5 volunteers extricated her from the bus and a stretcher took her away. I wasn't sure if she made it. There was a lot of confusion; she may have been the one that medics covered with a blanket. There must have been 8 dead that I saw. The news reported later a total of 16 dead, and 135 wounded.
I was nauseated and shaken up from not being used to the scene. I felt like I had to vomit, and I smelled of soot and sulfur. There was blood on my shirt, and my shoes were wet with a mixture of blood and oil. I walked to the other side of the security tape since, by now, only the dead, and the special team which deals with gathering up the dead, were left. The police and army started to distance everyone even further from the scene, because of the real possibility of a second bomb. The police looked anxious, and concerned.
A reporter From BBC approached me and asked if I was at the scene, and what happened. I responded in the affirmative and explained what I saw. I realized that it is more important what is happening, than what just happened. The effect is just the result of the cause. So I told him that, in in this scene, I saw President Bush's Road Map to Auschwitz (He later edited it out).
Later the news inaccurately analyzed that this attack was a result of the attempted assignation of the head of Hamas, Rantisi, in Gaza. However, they ignored the fact that 5 soldiers were killed the day before, and that an attack like yesterday's takes months to prepare.
These deaths were a direct result of Israeli and world leaders who have deliberately closed their eyes to the lesson of the history, both old and more recent: Sudetenland, and Oslo. As a result, many vehicles like bus 14 are scheduled by the "Road Map" to take this route. The victims who were on the bus were Israeli commuters, only 10 to 15 minutes from their homes, waiting to eat supper with their families after a long days' work, or shopping. They didn't realize that they were being forced to take a different route that was established last week at Aqaba called the "Road Map".
It would prove providential if these world leaders should experience life in Israel, buy passes and ride our buses everyday for a month. Instead of us, they can learn the lesson of history, the hard way. Maybe then they may better understand the Arab/Israeli conflict.
(Edited by Moshe Burt)
Chaim Sidman is an Oleh Chadash of 13 1/2 years, originally hailing from Natick, Massachusetts
where he built a family business and served as an EMT. He is a graduate of The University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a BS in Exercise Science in 1984. In Israel, he is an Alumus of Yeshiva Brisk in the Old City. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, is married, a father of 4, a painter and is currently involved in a Business Development project.
Moshe Burt, who edited the article, also lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, is an Oleh Chadash, a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of the Sefer Torah Recycling Network.
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