October 19, 2012

Hardly Surprised

Well, we’re hardly surprised, are we? We all knew this one was coming, just didn't know yet when. But when you live in a pressure cooker, either the place blows up, or it lets off some steam. And although literally speaking the place blew up , this is only 'letting off some steam'.

 It took a while before they figured out what it was about, but the news is out; Wissam al-Hassan, chief of the Intelligence Bureau of the Internal Security Forces, was blown up. 
In the explosion some 8 other people lost their lives, while over 80 wounded were transported to hospitals in the neighborhoods. He was no great friend of the Syrians and Hezbollah, who these days are seem to buddy-ing up more openly than ever, and had long been a target. His team got hit a few times in the past. He was lucky. Until today.

And although it’s very sad, in a way it is a ‘soulagement’; a relief. The pressure is off, if only for a while. 

What follows, is a certain tension in the air, a buzz. It’s like there’s a thick blanket covering the city, and suddenly it gets really stuffed and muffled and closed in. Who did it? And everyone of course knows who did it. It just differs who it is, depending on what side you're on. Everything and everyone gravitates to one another.  Suddenly you start calling people living in that neighborhood, people you haven’t spoken to in months, to check on them. They’re all fine. “Drop by," you get after a phone call, “well, as soon as the streets are cleared up, you can’t get through right now, army’s blocked off the road.” 
There’s this sense of togetherness that you lose in this town when the situation is calm for a long period of time. The newspaper says it’s been 4 years since the last car bomb. Wow! I am more surprised with the fact that someone’s actually keeping track of that, than with the fact that is been already four years. Everyone is up and on their toes.

When I got there, the situation - all SNAFU only a couple of hours ago – was under control. Police and army had cordoned off the street, and the bomb squad was already fishing its way through the massive debris for clues. 
The narrow street in the dominantly christian neighborhood was an unlikely target, until of course it became clear who they aimed for.

I got a little lesson on the spot in the dynamics of a bomb explosion from a certain gentleman who works at the forensic department of a division that he was not willing to share with me.
Narrow residential streets with high-rise on both sides are probably the worst place for a car bomb (or any bomb) to go off, according to him. The incredible power of the blast cannot spread out and diffuse, and therefore stays compact and powerful for a much longer distance than if it would have been set off on a wider street, said the bomb squad gentleman, dressed from top to toe in white. 

An added problem is that everything is built in concrete, which only aggravates the matter. Wood and metal bend; Concrete doesn’t budge, and so waves bounce back. Add the fact that in narrow streets it is difficult to speed up, which allows for a greater window for the one pushing the button, and you have a guaranteed success. From a bomb-maker’s perspective, of course.

 The setting off of a car bomb apparently still gets done manually. Or so he presumed. “We have the whole night, and months to come, to figure that one out.” How did I get this mighty interesting bomb squad man to divulge his secrets? He was trained by Dutch forensic bomb experts, apparently. There’s a Dutch connection everywhere.

The only sound was of generators and glass being brushed aside. Piles and piles and piles of glass all over the place;  the whole entire neighborhood was shoving the damage aside. There are like 10 banks around this block, and every window was gone. For the banks it is easy, most of their glass windows are plastic coated (3M), and you just pick them up by one corner and drag them out of the place. But most shop fronts were gone, and they don’t have the fancy smanzy stuff. Some are lucky, with security glass that shatters, but others were picking their way through needle sharp debris with flimsy little broom sticks. And the residents are even unluckier; they have the thin glass window panes that are the nastiest of all when they shatter. And shatter, they did. 

An older gentleman showed me his house on the ground floor. He was lucky, as he lives right around the corner from the explosion, and the pressure does not round corners well, but his windows were blown in with frame and all.  All the doors were blown out of their frames, and the curtains where shredded due to the flying glass shards. “But only three valuable pieces were lost,” he said, as he proudly showed me his collection of red Czechoslovakian crystal.  A particular nice and delicate chandelier, standing right on the grand piano, had survived the blast, while right next to the piano, the sliding doors separating the dining room form the living room had been pushed into the dining room, with bits of the concrete wall attached to it.  They had already called the glass maker, but the entire facade of his house would have to be fixed. “C’est la vie,” he said in resignation. “At least we’re still here.

For some really informative photos, go here.


Anonymous said...

Dank voor je verhaal. We zijn geschokt.
Bij jullie alles OK? Vrienden, familie, collega's?
Bij Maya alles OK.
Groet uit Eindhoven

Anonymous said...

Every time I set my mind in starting a blog... I read one of your posts and wonder what I have to write about.... Bears in the backyard.... Recipes..... Nothing exciting.


Sietske said...

Hallo D & M, hier alles in order, rust is weer terug gekeerd :) Leuk dat jullie nog lezen !

Bears in the backyard are great! I want to see pictures!!