...and while I am writing at the computer, I hear a siren in the distance and the sound fills me with fear of something that may happen. The news just announced that the death toll in the attack on the UN offices in Baghdad has risen to ten, ten colleagues. And again I hear the sound of sirens and again a sensation of fear.
I think of how my grandparents have lived many years threatened by the deafening sound of sirens announcing approaching air strikes. Grandparents that represent for me the symbol of certain values, many in their generation gave up their lives to build our freedom.
And again the news: the death toll of my colleagues has risen to fourteen.
This morning I cannot work, I don't know, I do not know what to think, I don't know where to turn. Maybe I will give my mamma a call - I know she will worry as soon as she hears the news - to tell her that everything is fine, just like I do every time something frightening happens, but this time I am not able to tell her, cheerfully as I usually do, that all is fine. This time I am shocked, I am scared.
A colleague rushes into my office: "they've just confirmed that Sergio Vieira de Mello has also been killed in the bomb attack". It is not true. I cannot believe it. He was one of my heroes, one of my examples to follow - in this world I do not have that many. I don't know.
As I try to escape gazing through the window I see the raped skyline of New York, orphaned of its twins. I look down at the UN courtyard where, right at this moment, they are lowering the flag. The flag flies at half-mast in honour of those 20 fellows of ours, who went to Iraq to coordinate humanitarian aid and to give hope for the future to the Iraqi people. They flew to the sky...
I am grasping the Internet for the latest news, hoping to find something that will help me understand - "understand" I do not know exactly what - and I see the photo of the flag at half-mast in the UN courtyard. I get up from my chair and look outside the window again and I see TV cameras capturing the image of the lowered flag. I am confused, I cannot distinguish which are the images on TV and which ones are real. I am very confused.
I sit down again and I stare at the screen and the breaking news appears again... "Attack in Middle-East: 20 people killed, among which several children."
The sound of sirens
maybe an ambulance, maybe a fire-truck, maybe...
Shivers down my spine. Fear.
They remind me of when I was a child and my grandfather told me of sirens of far-away stories.
In his warm voice that made me feel protected,
he would tell me about the sirens announcing approaching air-strikes.
A few days ago, there was a blackout here
perhaps a power failure, perhaps lightning, perhaps...
Shivers down my spine. Fear.
It reminded me of when I was a child and the electricity would go out in our house
and my grandparents would tell us far-away stories.
Under warm candlelight, nested on their laps to make me feel protected,
they told me of cold darkness in the shelters beneath the ground.
And again I hear the sound of sirens,
echoes of those far-away stories
shivers down my spine
I think that for children in Iraq, those sirens have never been far-away stories.
For many years, because of those who should have been protecting them
in the last months, because of those who went to protect them - or at least that's what they claimed.
I am a fortunate one, because when I was a child,
the sirens were the protagonists in the fairy-tales or
in the far-away stories of my grandparents.
Right when I was hoping that the sirens of my fairy-tales were coming closer to Iraqi children;
I discover the fear of the sirens of those far away stories giving me shiver down my spine.
But no, there is no reason to be afraid... because my grandparents told me,
and grandparents are always right,
that those sirens belong only to far-away stories
And again I hear the sound of the sirens
let's hope that these are the ones of the fairy-tales...
The poem "For whom the sirens toll" was awarded the second prize of the International Poetry Award "A fairy-tale for peace" 2003/2004 (Premio Letterario Internazionale "Una favola per la pace"), organized by International Peace Bureau-Italia and Citta' di Lugo.
The motivation given by the Jury of the Awarding Committee was the following:
"With a title that recalls Hemingway, the author starts from a dramatic event of the international politics of nowdays, to dive into memories and stories of his childhood, wisely merging past and present, and mix reality and fantasy."
© 2003-2004 Massimo Toschi; All rights reserved