The Story of an American Soldier in Iraq

Life as a soldier in Baghdad, Iraq is definitely interesting and full of life changing experiences, like... being shot at and blown up! Yee haw, what fun eh?

Actually, it has its ups and downs, and as a journalist in the US Army (assigned to CJTF-7 Public Affairs) I've had the chance to see many things that others have only heard of through the news themselves - I hope you'll enjoy them too, through my eyes. ; )

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

After the rocket attacks we had to return for our gear - at least enough for a few days until the area was safe enough to move out of fully. This is what I saw...

The Aftermath and the power of prayer

Truthfully, when the attack happened I was too busy concentrating on what I was doing and too hopped up on an adrenaline rush to feel scared. As strange as it may be, I felt excited, like you get when watching a good thriller.
But, later, when it was time for us to return to the building to retrieve our belongings (and well after the adrenaline wore off), I didn’t really relish the idea of going back inside. All of my instincts were telling me to stay out, like a donkey sitting on its haunches. Still, it had to be done. Everything we have was in there.
Walking through the front doors nothing seemed different. The lobby was spotless as usual and the hotel employees, though looking tired and worried, were happy to see those of us they recognized.
One of the freight elevators was working alright and I jumped in to head up to what was my room only hours before.
When we were escaping the blast, the smoke and dust was so thick that you could only see a few feet. Looking through that opaque screen had saved me from seeing the devastation the tenth floor had experienced – one of the worst hit floors in the building.
As the elevator doors opened on the tenth floor it was like stepping into a war zone (‘ha ha’… it IS a war zone). The thick smoke had cleared and I could see what had really happened to us and just how lucky I had been.
Our floor had scored at least one direct rocket hit in one of the rooms directly across form the elevators, and VERY close to my room. The hallway was full of rubble, plaster and cement pieces the size of driveway gravel, and chunks of wood and ceiling panels. Only a few lights in the hallway were functioning and everything was soaked with water, forming in puddles on the floor, from a burst water main.
A small area that used to have a coffee table and a few chairs, where I sat regularly to talk to friends if Abbott wasn’t well or to wait for my room key, simply didn’t exist anymore. The only sign among the rubble and piles of splinters that there were ever chairs there were the shrapnel studded seat pads.
Opposite the elevators, the area where our Gurka guard once stood is shattered as well. The podium he sat at was ripped loose from the floor and slammed down sideways, and the interior wall there (and in front of the non-existent chairs) simply didn’t exist anymore.
Light streamed through the hole, almost big enough to walk through, allowing me to see what had happened in what used to be a decent hotel room.
I was shocked at the level of damage.
The room looked just like a cave - the blast peeled all the wallpaper and wood paneling right off. There was almost nothing recognizable as furniture inside – in fact, it looked like someone had emptied a garbage truck inside. Anything that had been wood, was now simply splinters. The bed mattresses were stripped of their sheets and thrown on end, and glass and bits of clothing and personal things are everywhere. Even a section of the ceiling that used to house the room’s air conditioning unit was turned into a gaping hole, as well as the area where a row of windows used to be.
The bathroom was the only recognizable spot, and it still looked like a level 10 earth quake hit it, but the walls survived.
The rooms on either side of the main blast aren’t in much better shape, and the rooms two doors down look like burglars ripped them apart and smashed all the glass.
Looking at the damage scared me, and also made me realize just how lucky I was. A huge swath of the hotel around the rocket was destroyed or damaged, including the room beside me, and though we were inside that zone, my room was barely touched!
Yesterday, a very interesting and amazing fact occurred to me.
Mom and Dad, back home, have a whole brigade of people praying for me and GOD LISTENED. There is NO WAY we could have possibly come through that blast so well!!! We were directly in the path of the blast and even rooms much further down the hallways on both sides had mirrors shattered and ceiling panels popped out, yet our room had NO DAMAGE at all other than the door blowing in from the force of the blast – even our mirrors survived. And, neither Abbott nor I got so much as a splinter while several people further away had injuries from glass or shrapnel.
I mentioned this to another soldier, one of the 22nd Signal soldiers who works to supply us with internet and phone lines, and he said that he had a similar experience.
According to him, a rocket was headed straight for his room and exploded against the cement outside. Shockingly, though the windows of the rooms surrounding his were shattered and pocked with large chunks of shrapnel, nothing so much as hit his.
He said that he had a huge group of people praying for his safety at home too.
I know that many soldiers depend on strong prayer networks and ask people they don’t even know to pray – know I know very well why. It DOES make a difference.
Quite frankly, I believe that Abbott and I would have been badly injured – should have been, given the berth of the rocket – but weren’t because people cared enough for us to spend a few minutes a day praying for our safety.
I want to send out a VERY strong THANK YOU to everyone who has been praying for me, and for other soldiers!! Who knows how many other disasters may have been averted thanks to a well placed prayer?
And please, keep praying!

Lots of Love,
Rebecca Burt.
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