Morning, 8:10 a.m., we just started our daily work. Suddenly we heard a big blast. It was obviously a bomb blast. The sound was very loud, and it should not be very far from where I was. My instinct as a photographer threw me away to the source of the blast.
The explosion happened in front of the Police Headquarters, just about 500 m away from my office. It was a mess. I saw a big bus was completely destroyed; police and medical workers were evacuating victims; and other police rushed civilians (including journalists) not to get near. There was no fire. When we arrived (one reporter and two photographers), there were no other journalists there yet. Our office was the closest to the location. But not long after we arrived, police started to beat civilians with sticks to empty the location.
This was a big blast. The bus belonged to local Police Academy and was carrying academy attendants. At least this terrorist attack claimed 35 casualties and injured others. Most of the victims are police new recruits, but there were also some poor civilians. A coach carrying four foreigners (two Koreans and two Pakistanis) was just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The car was near the blasted bus and the passengers were heavily injured.
Police was still investigating how the accident. While it was to be proven whether it was a suicide attack, it was possible that the bomber jumped into the bus (while the doors were opened) and exploded the poor vehicle; or it was also possible that the bomb was planted inside the bus. No matter what, this deadly explosion successfully touched the most sensitive nerve of Kabul live.
Not only the location was central (near the busy Kabul shopping area), but the place was strategic. The police headquarters was always a crowded area, not only because of the security officers, but it was also the place where local civilians had to go to apply for letters and legal matters. Nearby, there are some ministries and important government building as well.
Moreover, explosions, suicide bombing, terrorist attacks, had become more common in Kabul, somehow. Just a day before a suicide bomber blasted himself on busy Kabul-Wardak highway and claimed many casualties from a public transport. I was told that an old man, a passenger of the unlucky vehicle, turned to be a dead body but the 500 US$ cash in his pocket said that there was somebody waiting for his arrival in his house. This man, maybe someone’s husband, someone’s father, finished his life story in an unexpected time due to an unexpected blast. Life was as cheap as that.
I remembered last year when I visited Kandahar, where bomb blasts and random firing happened on daily basis, a local told me, “Everything here is expensive, except human life.” It was just a daily routine to hear the sound of a blast. No panicky, no surprise. Oh yes, there was actually surprise. People discussed, “Oh that’s a bomb.” But two minutes after that, life went back to normal.
Somehow, the trend moved northward to Kabul. The frequency of terror attacks escalated dramatically in recent months. Suicide bombers even have targeted far-northern provinces, like Kunduz near Tajikistan border, where terrorist attack was almost not heard previously (or because media successfully portrayed the highlight of northern areas as ‘safe’?).
Life is cheap. Our human soul is meaningless here. A son of the driver of the blasted bus today ran to the location and grieved his dead father. For photographers or journalists, it was just an interesting scene to capture. Our work had turned us to be numb hearted who celebrated tragic accidents as ‘best photography moments’. The destroyed bus, the bleeding victims, the flying flesh of human bodies, or even tsunami-devastated villages, turned to be ‘photogenic’ items. The blast today invited some dozens of photographers and cameramen, and it was a hard work for the police to rush them away from the location. A female foreign photographer, who was pushed by the police in a rude manner, complained, “It is not fair! They let some people in and refuse some others!” She forgot, a terrorist might just pretend to be a journalist, get close to the area, and explode the second bomb.
Life is cheap. Human casualties are just a surprise to tickle your mind for five minutes. Bomb blast was just an exciting site for locals of the neighborhood to see for one hour or two. These young police recruits who were in the unlucky bus became the surprising story of the day, but not more than that. These victims are someone’s sons, someone’s husbands. How many mothers are waiting for their returning home after leaving for academy training this morning? How many wives who turned to be widows just in instant winks?
Life is cheap. People know that their life can be recalled anytime due to unknown reason. Going to market to shop for vegetables may turn one to go to another world accidentally. Is that also the reason, why Afghans like to say, “Zinda boshi (May you be alive)!” as daily greetings? Isn’t that greetings that we don’t say in our languages?
Life is cheap. The panicked pedestrians were minority compared to curious bodies, who were attracted by a curiosity magnet to see what happened and who were killed. The life in Kabul was not affected by the blast. Just a block away was the busy commercial center of the city. Shops were open as usual; people were shopping in rush; as nothing special happened.
Yes. It was not nothing special anymore here, where life are not worth more than five minute gossip.
I remembered some days ago, a friend from embassy asked me to discuss about the possibility of Civil War in Afghanistan. Well, it might be possible, as we already knew the risk of coming here, right? We were used to it, as we were conditioned by it. The other day when I was eating with the embassy guys in a restaurant, we heard sound of a blast.
“What is that?” asked one.
“Just a bomb,” answer the other.
Yes, don’t worry. It is just a bomb.
The high frequency of bomb blasts, suicide explosions, terrorist attacks, home-to-home firings, has made our mind, our heart, our worries, all numb.