In Jordan we write the date with the day first and then the month. It didn’t hit me until I saw a copy of a Jordanian newspaper this morning that the date of yesterday’s bombings is 9/11.
Sometime after 8 last night, while I was in bed reading, my friend Jack called to ask if I was alright. I had plans to see him tonight so I didn’t quite know what he meant, And then he told me about the bombings. I got on the Internet and turned on my short wave radio to listen to the BBC to try to get some preliminary information. While surfing I realized that a short while before Jack called I felt something that was sort of like an earthquake, except I could hear a loud “boom.” At first it reminded me of the canon blasts at iftar during Ramadan. But then, just for a brief second, I wondered if the U.S. missed an Iraqi target. In any case, it wasn’t enough to make me concerned as when Jack called just a few minutes later I had already forgotten about it. Then emails, calls, and text messages from Phalasteen and the U.S. began pouring in. People wanted to know what happened, but not having a television here I think that people calling me already knew more than I did.
I went to sleep a few hours later and woke up early to go around with a Fulbright colleague to see the damage. As I first walked down the hill I live on I listened to determine what type of day it would be. Jordan declared an official day of mourning, which means that all businesses and schools were closed for today. But I did hear construction workers hammering and the petrol man driving around (he delivers petrol from a truck while playing music that sounds exactly like an ice cream truck in the U.S.). But when I got down to the bottom of the hill I did notice that there was a decidedly show stream of traffic on the main roads; sort of like a Friday when everyone is at home or at the mosque.
Steve and I began our day at Books@Cafe, sort of hoping other people would be around so we could connect with Jordanians and expats to see how people were doing. But we were the only people there. I thought about what it meant to go to such an establishment, a place that is owned by a Palestinian-Jordanian, but that certainly has a large expat clientèle. On the one hand our business is very important to the owners and workers there. But then again, perhaps our very presence makes this establishment a target.
We walked around the city today because so many roads are closed off with military and police blocking them. Last night, immediately following the bombings, all of the city was shut down. Steve said that from his roof he could see a stream of cars stopped dead for hours. The city was encircled with checkpoints to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic and all of the land, air, and sea borders were shut. Now they have reopened, but the security is extremely tight.
We couldn’t get too close because of police, security, etc. so we couldn’t see too much damage, though the Days Inn, by my house, had some burn marks on the front of the building, which you can see in my photographs online. In front of the Radisson we met three Spanish tourists who just arrived yesterday and they had just collected their belongings since the hotel has been evacuated. They were not there when the bomb went off and so they were unable to get back last night at all. As we walked around the city looking at the damage we talked about the fact that the presence of contractors here in Amman makes this city a huge target for terrorists. Between their presence and the Iraqi and Palestinian refugees here who want the occupation of their land to end there are all kinds of issues brewing at the surface. As we walked through the city we stopped at a coffee place exactly across the street and we began to see a stream of cars with patriotic flags and photo posters of King Abdullah pasted to the windows, doors, trunks of cars. The owners of the coffee shop told us about a solidarity march that was beginning at 3 PM (actually, it began at 1) right near the Grand Hyatt hotel.
We decided to go downtown to buy a couple of Jordanian flags and then join the marchers. We bumped into Sireen, a friend of Fadi’s, who was photographing the event and another friend of hers who was filming for a local TV show she works form. We all walked together to join the march. The entire walk around Jebal Amman and downtown we noticed that there were scores of new Jordanian flags everywhere as well as these new pictures of King Abdullah in a suit (though we wondered why not one of his military poses?). I was given one of the King’s posters by a small Jordanian boy to carry during the march. It’s not that flags are not usually displayed, and certainly you can see photographs of the Royal Family everywhere you go, but these were decidedly new.
The march was wonderful and precisely the cathartic experience I was looking for after last night. It was wonderful to be with a group of people—men, women, children, old, young, handicapped, able-bodied—who were standing together in solidarity against what happened. The chants of the group centered on denouncing Abu Mussab Zarqawi and Osama Bin Laden by calling their actions cowardly and cruel for hurting innocent civilians. All day long I kept thinking, especially, about the Jordanian family holding a wedding at the Radisson Hotel. Both the bride and groom lost their fathers. I cannot imagine a worse fate than this. Steven and I offered our condolences to people we met in the march. One very sweet woman, who teaches autistic children, began crying while I spoke to her. After she learned I was American she told her children and relatives that these Americans were here to join them in solidarity. To me, this is what Fulbright is all about. Isn’t this the epitome of cross-cultural exchange? If you’re not going to put yourself out there to connect with people when they are at their worst then when will you do it? I even told people, who asked, that I am also Jewish. Equally important, I think, for Jordanians to understand that a Jewish American woman stands in solidarity with them at this moment.
After marching for around 5 miles and for a few hours, Steve and I split up because we thought it was over. He headed towards his house and I towards mine. Except I noticed that the march continued so I got out of the cab and joined the crowd again and I’m so happy that I did. The march actually ended at one of the hospitals where some of the people are recovering. And, on this last trek of the march I was interviewed by ABC News and Sky News (England). I doubt that I’ll be aired on TV because when they asked me what I thought the cause of these bombings was I said that it’s the U.S. occupation in Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. If we end these two occupations today I promise that these suicide bombings and other terrorist actions will end very quickly.