We have much to tell you, and a lot to thank you for. It is definitely the prayers of all of you that obtain for us from Heaven the strength to move forward in the mission entrusted to us, and in which we decided to stay voluntarily. That explains how we are able to cope with such tragic situations, for which no one could be prepared for, such as what we lived through on Tuesday, 15th January when 3 rockets exploded a few meters from where we live.
Before I give you more details, we want to inform you that we are alright. What happened was awful and greatly shocked everyone, but we are well, and we thank God for being able to accompany the people during these days.
The explosions happened at 1 pm, the time of rush hour traffic and of pedestrians. The first was at the roundabout where the university campus begins, the second-almost simultaneous-in the front, and a few minutes later the third fell a few meters in front of the buildings currently housing refugee families. We felt the rumble, our whole building shook and we saw pieces of all kinds of materials flying above us. Many windows, glasses, and shutters were broken. In the Church the stained glass windows fell off, and the debris that flew perforated the roof in several places. We did not suffer any injury. The priests immediately ran to the convent next door to the elderly in the Home of the Mother Teresa, and to us living below with the students. This year, because of the situation, the boarding school was not open regularly, but we have 4 girls living with us who are blood sisters, two are students and the other two work at the university. The latter two were outside at the time of the explosion.
A few minutes later, one of them, Hedra, came in injured. She was crossing the roundabout at the time of the first explosion. In the boom of the explosion, everything flew, and an iron shrapnel pierced her in the back. Amid such chaos, it was impossible to find means of transport or to communicate with the hospitals. Power and phone lines were cut off. Neither did the cell phones work. At the door, there were some parked cars, belonging to the employees of the bishopric, who providentially had been delayed from their usual departure time of 1 p.m.. But they were afraid to go out and the cars were also damaged. Finally one of them took us in his car to the nearest hospital. Father Rodrigo accompanied us.
In the hospital, they immediately attended Hedra, they made several studies before they could diagnose the status of the damage. The iron had pierced the scapula, had broken two ribs and had punctured the lung; so they had to intervene surgically in order to remove the iron piece and to put a drainage tube in the location of the injury. Her condition was very delicate, but the doctors acted very swiftly and attended her excellently. She was conscious all the time, and even though racked with pain, she showed admirable fortitude. Father Rodrigo could hear her confession before she went into surgery. Everything happened very quickly, and an hour later she was being operated upon.
Meanwhile, Father David attended the wounded at the roundabout, where the scene was shocking. One of the victims was Sarkis, a humble worker with sincere piety, a beneficiary of SOS aid (* Blog) , who on the way to the bus station was right in front of the explosion. He flew many meters almost completely burned by the flames and suffered several broken bones in his body. Father David administered him the last rites, and one of our youth immediately took him to the hospital in his car. The severity of the burns and the inability to operate in that state presaged the worst. But Sarkis commended himself one more time to St. Joseph (whom he invoked daily in the thirty-day novena) and survived.
A great number of people died that day. The magnitude of the explosion was huge and caused a horrendous slaughter. In addition to the car traffic at that time and the constant flow of students, that corner of the campus was occupied by dozens of refugee tents, and vendors crowded around the rotunda. Official data that were communicated were not real. Some claim that among the students themselves, there were more than 400 dead. In addition there are hundreds injured and many missing, including Sister Rima, one of the Sisters of St. Dorothy who was at the roundabout at the time. That Hedra, Sarkis, and several other people survived, seems miraculous.
That day, we had been celebrating the second anniversary of the Dedication of the Church and were in full preparation for the celebration and the festivities. After many years of sacrifice and difficulties of all kinds, on January 15, 2011, the much awaited Church had been solemnly inaugurated. It was a motive of extraordinary joy for the Christians in the area who finally had their own place where they can gather to pray. But at the end of two years, even this consolation was torn away from them. Hedra, severely wounded, came groping up to the doors of the Church. It was there that we found her: sitting on a bench, oblivious of her own injury, she was weeping on seeing God’s house so desecrated.
The next day, many faithful and friends came to help us to clean, to remove the debris and the glass; we moved everything to a room in the bishopric. There the Mass was celebrated, in which our “small-big family” participated, the ones who come to pray daily. There was no one who was not crying. It was a special mass, one of pain and of thanksgiving. It was a wonderful example of a living faith, which is strengthened and purified in suffering.
“Let it not be that because of what has happened, our missionaries want to leave us and return to their countries”. It was the first thing they thought, they told us with dismay. We have told them about all of you, and they feel sincerely accompanied by your prayers and offerings. This is very valuable for them. Among the photos attached, there are two that we took after Mass during one of these days, so that you may know some of the persons for whom you pray.
A big hug to everyone. And thank you for your prayers!