I was never one to follow the news. To some of you that is a sin worthy of being in the seven deadly sins. To the rest of you such blasphemy sounds normal, day-to-day, and mundane. Those would agree with me that the news is hardly ever NEW; rather the same things keep happening over and over. Fresh names, fresh faces, but the same tired headlines.
That is of course until you ARE the news!
Last week the top news story was the collapse of an Alexandria building killing all of its tenants, save a few sole survivors. So far pretty normal; sad, tragic and distant. Until that survivor shows up on channel 5 and you discover she’s your aunt! Let’s just say I’ve stumbled upon newfound understanding of the word vertigo.
Picture this, a small Egyptian family living the American dream; residents of the wild NYC, here for Christmas break, to see family and friends. Picture perfect, no? Seconds later you are lying under heaps of cement and dirt barely able to breathe. You can hear the voices of the rescuers above you and of your flat mates – your mom and your 22 year old daughter – to your left and below you. The pain and shock are mind numbing as the adrenaline coursing through your veins forces your tired brain to get up to speed. The building has collapsed! You’re badly injured! But for the time being… you’re ALIVE!
How I want to divert from the script. How I wish I could tell you that my grandma and cousin were also rescued. How I long to put a happy spin on the tragic tale, but while I may be the omnipotent narrarator, this story has a life of its own.
At this point I would find nothing easier than to digress, to draw you into our personal tragedy, to share our loss, to ramble on about the whole event of finding and recognizing the bodies, of telling all relevant parties and of sitting there in the funeral home clad in black and restraining tears; yet THAT would be emotional blackmail.
Instead I want to tell you a little about Amira; not because I have to but cause I want to. She deserves to have light shed on her. It’s amazing how all those who die young seem to go with such peace and serenity. The Lord chooses his followers. Some he creates too good for this earth… for this life…. We are unworthy of them and he calls them back. Amira was one such person. She has got to be the most immaterialistic person I know. She had zero interests in life and all its temptations. None of the normal hungriness for money, power, success, love or any such worldly addiction. She is now gone, to a better place, to the world she’s always lived in, at least in spirit.
Only after the tears are shed and the shock absorbed I’m left with the ugly aftertaste, bitterness at the back of my throat as a result of all the swallowed tears and sniffles; and anger beyond containment. Yes I’m angry! Not at God, even I know better than to be angry at God. I’m a firm believer in destiny (I’ve already been quite vocal on my explanation of destiny and have been seriously scorned for it, yet sticking steadfast to my view). I realize that this is part of the grand scheme of things. Yet I’m still angry. I’m angry at how the event happened, at how it progressed and at how I know it will end. The carelessness and the corruption that came together to conspire against the tenants and apartment owners. The sheer amount of violations that were overlooked due to kick-backs or nepotism. I am angry and I need something to channel this anger at. I need vengeance. I need retribution.
I am angry at the fact that this woman (the owner of the building) could be that careless, that devoid of emotion, of guilt. To be that cold hearted must be quite liberating. Forget her heartless guiltless self. How come she wasn’t monitored? How come reckless endangerment was overlooked by the state? How has there been government announcements to the effect that there are 600 other buildings around Egypt liable to collapse at any minute for the same causes. Still angry. More so because I’ve seen it all before, I’ve read the writings on the wall, I know what will happen. We will all stand cross-armed as history repeats itself. There will be the usual media circus. Some engineer will take the fall. There will be a lot of cosmetic decisions on behalf of the government to improve their stance with the public. Finally the file will be stowed away to collect dust until the next building collapse. Meanwhile our heartless greedy murderer will get the chance to build another multi-story mega structure on her piece of land and sell off apartments to fresh unsuspecting home seekers. Business as usual in Egypt.
Very tempting to take up an alternative persona, don a mask and start seeking retribution armed with a sabre and the gift of words. Yet passing for now; opting instead to write this and send it out, in the hope of creating something that will outlive me. Corny as it may be, forced to quote:
“We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I’ve witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I’ve seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them…”
Amazing isn’t it? How numb the collective conscious of the Egyptian public has become. Accuse me of generalizing won’t you! Yet kindly remember that if you are reading this, chances are we know each other in person and I’m quite selective regarding those I associate with. I pride myself on knowing all those worth knowing in this country. Yet fact remains… despite the overwhelming signs that this country is heading towards an era of increased religiousness and prudence… I regret to inform you that like in all matters we Egyptians have abandoned the soul (essence) of things and are settling for the bare outlines.
I’m rambling almost randomly. I’m grieving so bear with me.. or don’t… life’s too short to waste anyways.