Good luck with the job! Fingers crossed that you get it. Prompt: Shoot + beach vacation
thought you were from Texas,” Shaw glanced toward the glistening
ocean, then back at her travel buddy.
am,” Root pulled down her floppy hat. “It doesn’t make it any
less hot here.”
should be acclimated though,” Shaw dropped her beach bag on the
beach, the metal clanking of the guns inside barely audible because
of the beach towels covering them. She grabbed one of the towels and
unraveled it, setting it flat on the beach.
picked out another towel and did the same. “Need I remind you of
the six hours I spend in the morgue freezer recently? I think I’d
be more acclimated to Alaska at this point.” She took off her small
shorts and sat down on her towel, ready to pretend to soak up some
sun in her bikini.
looked to the bullet wound that was still pink and healing on Root’s
shoulder. She was about to say something about protecting the new
skin when Root adjusted her hat to cover it up. “It had to be risky
to leave you in there that long.”
was,” Root leaned back on her towel and looked down the beach. The
yacht they were there to watch was still anchored just off the shore.
more Shaw thought about it, the more things could have gone wrong
with The Machine’s plan. Root got shot which the Machine indicated
was not part of the plan. Paramedics declare her dead at the scene,
but another handful of non-fatal accidents make it so that the
paramedics are rushed. One of the paramedics had to be on The
Machine’s payroll because there was no way they’d mistake
declaring someone dead. A sudden red light makes the medical
examiner’s driver slam his breaks so hard Root’s gurney slams
into the back of his seat, resuscitating her. That sounded far
fetched, but Shaw wasn’t sure the Machine would lie.
goes into cold storage which slows her bleeding again. She’s in and
out and Lionel can’t tell the difference between a dead body and a
freezing Root who is a hair’s breath away from death. The second
Lionel leaves, Leon of all people comes to collect the body, drop off
a fake cochlear implant manufactured by Caleb Phipps, and take her to
Dr. Megan Tillman who removes the bullet, repairs Root’s wounds and
sets her up in the ICU with a fake name and credentials provided by
none other than Zoe Morgan takes custody of her ‘sister’ when
she’s well enough, managing to keep a healing Root indoors for the
better part of a week until Root starts tracking down the rest of the
A team, finding two of them dead, one of them back at work for the
NYPD and Shaw in the wind.
Root got a number from the Machine. Her first one since technically
set up in a sniper next across the alley from an empty warehouse
where she sees Shaw for the first time since dying. She takes out the
person attempting to kill Shaw and waits on the roof for Shaw to find
her because she knew there was no way Shaw would just accept help
from a shadowy sniper.
went to get dinner, Shaw offered Root a place to sleep, and over the
next few days they built a new headquarters. Root got a kick out of
scaring Lionel the first time she saw him again and Shaw’s smile
was very telling of her own amusement.
I’m okay,” Root shrugged. “And you’re okay.” She nudged the
knelt in the sand and started taking out parts of her high powered
sniper rifle and laying them on the towel she set out. Shaw wasn’t
good at her own emotions, but she could parse out Root’s pretty
well. She could tell that with Root’s statement came the resentment
that Harold and John were no longer alive. She couldn’t fault Root
for her anger. Root and the Machine had had many screaming matches
when Root thought that Shaw couldn’t hear.
The Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The city, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was besieged by the Army of Republika Srpska from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996 (1,425 days) during the Bosnian War. The siege lasted three times longer than the Battle of Stalingrad and more than a year longer than the Siege of Leningrad.
After Bosnia and Herzegovina had declared independence from Yugoslavia, the Bosnian Serbs—whose goal was to create a new Bosnian Serb state of Republika Srpska that would include parts of Bosnian territory—encircled Sarajevo with a siege force of 13,000 stationed in the surrounding hills. From there they assaulted the city with artillery, tanks and small arms. From 2 May 1992, the Serbs blockaded the city.
The second half of 1992 and the first half of 1993 were the height of the siege of Sarajevo. Serb forces outside the city continuously shelled the government defenders. Inside the city, the Serbs controlled most of the major military positions and the supply of arms. With snipers taking up positions in the city, certain particularly dangerous streets were known as “sniper alleys”.
Compared with the siege force, the Bosnian government forces (ARBiH) were very poorly armed. Bosnian black market criminals who joined the army at the outset of the war illegally smuggled arms into the city through Serb lines. The Sarajevo Tunnel, completed in mid-1993 to link Sarajevo with Bosnian-held territory on the other side of the Sarajevo Airport which was controlled by the United Nations, was a major asset in bypassing the international arms embargo. It helped supplies and weaponry reach the city’s defenders, and enabled some inhabitants to leave. The tunnel was said to have saved Sarajevo.
The Serbs were slowly driven back in Sarajevo and a ceasefire was reached in October 1995. On 14 December, the Dayton Agreement brought peace to the country and led to stabilization. The Bosnian government officially declared an end to the siege of Sarajevo on 29 February 1996, when Bosnian Serb forces left positions in and around the city. More than 70,000 Sarajevan Serbs subsequently left the Muslim-controlled districts of the city and moved to the Republika Srpska.
A total of 13,952 people were killed during the siege, including 5,434 civilians. The ARBiH suffered 6,137 fatalities, while Bosnian Serb military casualties numbered 2,241 soldiers killed. After the war, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted two Serb officials for numerous counts of crimes against humanity committed during the siege.
1. The “Momo” and “Uzeir” twin towers burn on Sniper Alley in downtown Sarajevo during the Serbian shelling of the Bosnian capital on June 08, 1992, in the first months of the Bosnian Genocide. (Photographer: Georges Gobet)
2. In a repeat attack on the Markale market, Serbs killed 68 Bosniak civilians and wounded 144 on February 5, 1994 (Photographer: Georges Gobet)
3. Seven-year-old Bosniak child, Nermin Divovic, lies mortally wounded in a pool of blood as unidentified American and British U.N. firefighters arrive to assist after he was shot in the head by Serbian snipers in Sarajevo Friday, November 18, 1994. The U.N. firefighters were at his side almost immediately, but the boy died outright. Serbs terrorized Sarajevo civilians and killed at least 1500 children in the besieged Bosnian capital. (Photographer: Enric Marti)
4. Smoke and flames rise from houses set on fire by attacking Serb forces in the village of Ljuta on Sarajevo’s Mount Igman on July 22, 1993. (Reuters Photo)
5. A gravedigger in the besieged Sarajevo buries the bodies of Bosniak civilians in a Muslim cemetery on January 28, 1993. During the siege of Sarajevo, Serbs killed 10,000 residents, including more than 1500 children, in one of the worst episodes of the Bosnian Genocide. (Photographer: Antoine Gyori)
“CHICAGO — The hospital where I work in Aleppo, Syria, is in a basement. The building above has been bombarded so many times that the top floors are too dangerous to use. Barrels and sandbags line the entrance to fortify it as a bunker.
Aleppo is a long way from my home in Chicago. That city, too, has its share of human suffering. Any Chicago surgeon who takes emergency duty can attest to the gun violence that plagues local communities. But the hospital where I work has state-of-the-art resources and some of the best doctors and nurses in the world. Scalpels are sharp, operating rooms are sterile, and specialists are abundant.
Aleppo, too, has some of the best doctors and nurses in the world, but there are so few left. They are exhausted, endangered, and they need help. That is why I volunteer for medical work in Syria; even the few weeks a year that I can offer provide some respite for the handful of surgeons who serve a population of 300,000 in a war zone. It is a heavy responsibility, but I feel I cannot ask world leaders to risk their citizens’ lives to save people there if I myself am unwilling to take such risks.
My weeks in Aleppo are intense. In Chicago, where I specialize in surgical oncology, I see one patient at a time. In Aleppo, I see 20 at once. You live your life one massacre to the next: of children at school, or of families sleeping at home or shopping at a market. We hear the jets screech by, the helicopters whirring in the sky, the mortars launching, then the bombs exploding. Followed by sirens and screaming.
The screaming seems never to end, some days. So many people pushing through the entrance. There are never enough beds, so patients have to share gurneys or lie on the floor. Sometimes, there is no place to step, with patients lying on floors smeared with blood and strewn with body parts. There are few field hospitals left in Aleppo, so patients who are stuck outside and can’t make it in sometimes die on our doorstep.
Then, abruptly, it ends. I walk away from all those patients. I am driven through sniper alleys, under airstrikes, and past checkpoints to cross the border into Turkey. From there, I fly home.
It crushes me every time. One moment, I’m in an underground hospital shaking from the blasts of missiles, saving whom we can, watching those we can’t bleed to death. The next moment, I am at the airport coffee shop watching a man in a sharp suit cut the line or a woman berate the barista for putting too much ice in her tea.
Nothing makes sense, and you feel like a ghost. Once you’ve been there, you never really leave Aleppo.
Back in Chicago, it’s my patients who help me stay focused. I had a patient I’ll call Sarah who had a sarcoma of the leg when she was 8. She endured a year of chemotherapy and had a portion of her fibula removed to excise the cancer, followed by radiation. The treatment stunted her leg’s growth and deformed her ankle, but she wanted to be able to run track and play soccer.
On a ski trip to Colorado, she saw people skiing on prosthetics, and that’s what she wanted. When she turned 11, she looked me in the eye and asked me to amputate her left leg. She showed such strength. She reminded me of Ahmad, a Syrian boy who had lost both legs, as well as his mother, when a bomb destroyed their home. He hoped one day to get robotic prostheses so he could walk again. His resilience was inspiring.
Each time I go back to Aleppo, though, conditions are worse. The pockets of life have become more tenuous with each visit. The markets, the children in the streets, the bustle of day-to-day living is replaced with rubble: apocalyptic wastelands of gutted buildings with collapsed roofs, exposed rebar and twisted staircases.
But people still live amid the ruins. You see them hanging laundry from a room on the third floor of a building cut in half. You see kids climbing over a 10-foot mound of rubble on their way home with some bread and water. Life has to go on, and people find ways to cope. They would rather face death at home than suffer in a refugee camp or risk drowning in a sinking boat.
For a surgeon in this setting, triage decisions mean the difference between life and death. A mother pleads with me to attend to her son; his skull is blown open, his brain exposed. He’s gone. There’s nothing we can do.
I move on to a girl with a lacerated artery in her amputated leg. She could bleed to death in minutes, but with pressure and a tourniquet we buy some time. Next to her is another young girl. Her right hand is obliterated: frayed tendons, twisted fingers, crushed bones. Her mother grips my shoulder, begging me to take her daughter to surgery first. But the girl is alive and she can wait.
This can last for hours. I lose all track of time. Eventually, the chaos dissipates. The floors are mopped clean. The dead are wrapped in white shrouds and laid in the street to make room for the next incoming tide of the wounded and dying.
You feel powerless. You can’t stop it. There aren’t enough hands to help, and you can’t save everyone. Should we give all of our blood supplies to save one life? Or ration them to save five who all need some? The choices are impossible, yet we make them.
The Syrian medics and rescue workers in Aleppo have sacrificed everything, some even their lives. They show up to work every day despite all the horrifying brutality. Those of us who go to volunteer cannot stop the bombs, but we can serve in solidarity with Syria’s full-time lifesavers. Who would I be if I could not support them and follow their lead for a few weeks a year?
They are among the most heroic, courageous and selfless people I have ever met — much like the New York firefighters I met on Sept. 11, 2001. A medical student at the time, I squeezed into an ambulance with nurses and medics and we drove toward the smoke and ashes to help. I saw firefighters, paramedics, police officers and citizens rushing to the World Trade Center. That was the side I wanted to be on.
We wrote our names on the back of our scrubs with black markers in case our bodies needed to be identified. I was scared, but I was surrounded by good people doing the right thing.
I had never felt that way again until I went back to Aleppo in August 2013. I had visited Syria several times growing up, and knew Aleppo, but that was my first trip since the conflict started. The overwhelming sadness and dread I felt on Sept. 11, I feel every day in Aleppo.
One night, we treated a child caught in an explosion who had the bone shards of obliterated bystanders embedded in his skin. An airstrike hit his school during a charity event to donate clothes to the poor. The last thing he remembered was seeing his best friend disintegrate in front of him.
The boy’s father saw me and asked who I was, and why I was speaking in a strange language. A nurse explained to him that I was an American doctor. He told me that he had never met an American. He never thought he would. He never believed the day would come when an American doctor — one with Syrian blood but born and raised with the freedoms and luxuries of the United States — would come to Aleppo to help in a time of war.
That gave my work a new dimension of meaning: a palpable connection to alleviate the suffering of a people long abandoned. It lets them know that they’re not alone. It has made me only more grateful for my life in America. It’s also why I go back.”
—————— Samer Attar, a surgeon with Northwestern Medicine and the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, is a volunteer with the Syrian American Medical Society and the Aleppo City Medical Council.
“We called sniper alley the alley of wolves. We were young and boys and had nicknames for everything, first of all the girls. There was the Nanny, the Epilogue, and the Soulcrusher. We thought these nicknames very clever, breathless with truth. We were thirteen and easily excited. To be killed by a sniper meant to be deathwinked, a verb. I came up with that. I had a minimum understanding of poetry, a maximum amount of fear.”
From “Deathwinked” by Vedran Husić, recommended by Fine Arts Work Center.
Read it for free tomorrow in Electric Literature’s weekly fiction magazine, Recommended Reading.