This time, I wasn't the one being struck by the car. This time, I was inside one.
On December 20th, 2010, four of us cruise ship crew members, headed out with the intentions to catch the crew bus to the mall for lunch. WHAT? Are we crazy? It's Egypt, right? There are a million things to see and do here? Yes, all true. However some days schedule only permits limited time ashore, hence the idea for a jaunt to the mall for lunch! Fuddruckers anyone? (Yes, there's one in Alexandria and it's exactly as awesome as all the rest!).
So, we missed the bus by mere moments. We decide, as we are pinched for time, to hire a cab. to the mall instead.
Only, we never make it to the mall.
Have you watched one of those viral traffic videos online? The ones where it shows cars, trucks, scooters, bicycles, animals, people all crossing from every which direction at the same time without any type of traffic lights or signalling at all? If you have, then you'll have an idea of how the roads are in Alexandria. We had past across the overpass from the Port and were making our way toward the mall. We came into a section of road where there literally were about 6 roads merging into one. Without any lines on the road, no lights to guide who starts and stops when. Let me tell you, people are not slowly, cautiously puttering along with concern. Nope. They are driving at steady speeds: no start/stop with breaking. And there are absolutely NO crosswalks of any kind (Luxor is a different story...).
The next few moments pass as if scenes from a tragic movie played in slow motion.
We're driving along, weaving here and there, I'm literally clutched, white-knuckled, onto the driver's seat as I was sitting right behind him. Out of the corner of our eye, a ways away, there is a woman and two children standing on the side of the road. No way would our North American minds imagine she was going attempt to cross this chaos!
Much the way my mind glosses over details of when I was struck by a car, to protect my sanity I gather...is the same as it does in this situation as well. Though, something's, no amount of glossing will cover. Even as I remember the details, tears prickle my eyes, and a pain pinches my heart.
She went for it. One child she carried in her arm, while holding the others' hand. We shook our heads in disbelief, breathe caught in our chest, hearts frozen as we watched. For a brief moment of hope, it seemed as though she'd make it.
I won't go into detail too much. I'll just say that my heart still breaks for the loss of lives that day.
The Chaos that ensued afterwards only served to add fuel to the fire, as we were soon surrounded by closer to a hundred angry Egyptian men, pushing on the cab, yanking open the doors, yelling at us in Arabic as if we did this on purpose. We made it out of the cab, and hovered with our backs against the wall of an eatery, panicked. No one spoke English. Except the broken bits of our cab driver, who was trying to get us to go back in the cab. Which we outright refused, despite his insistence.
A person of the restaurant offered us water and tried his best to calm everyone. He even called his friend cab driver to help us. Only THIS cab driver actually wanted US to walk across the 6 lanes of traffic to where his cab was parked. Hell NO was that happening. We stayed put. And eventually he brought the cab to us. Only how do you explain to someone who doesn't speak English how to get to the port? It actually came down to drawing on a paper, a couple wrong directions (and ALMOST another close call with an accident!), before we made it home (Our home away from home, the Norwegian Jade).
It wasn't until I made it back to the privacy of my cabin that the emotions that were held inside broke the surface. Heartbroken, overwhelmed, in utter shock. I remember calling my mom. I needed to hear her voice. She told me later that she could hardly make out what I was saying, but she knew it was bad. She urged me to come home. But I couldn't.
I had to put on a strong suit. I was the Supervisor of the Youth Program on board, during the Christmas cruise. There was no time for replacements. SomeHOW, I had to look into the faces of hundreds of kids on board, and their families, and not think of the two little ones and their mom who didn't make it home that day. It was one of the most difficult weeks of my life to date. I came home, mid February, with delayed P.T.S.D. My family doctor actually sent me for an emergency appointment with how emotional I was in his office at the mere opening question "Nice to see you Amanda, how have you been?" It's four years later, and I am still not the same Amanda I was before that accident occurred.
I'm sharing this story now, in memory of that family and the heartache that their loved ones must go through each year on this anniversary. And also to share an example of P.T.S.D that didn't stem from serving time in military. I do think a lot of people still only attribute one to the other. I want to help spread the word for those of us who also cope with P.T.S.D on a daily basis, in hopes to strengthen the awareness & support. And ALSO so that we remember to be grateful for the things we take for granted. Traffic rules/regulations, safe crosswalks, and even Emergency response systems that arrive within minutes as opposed to those countries, like Egypt, that don't have these life saving luxuries.
I'd love to hear your experiences, and thoughts on these subjects, please drop a comment or two for me :) With love to all of you and your loved ones. Give them all a huge hug for me. xoxo Amanda