by Tosha Griggs
Time isn’t even effective in dulling the shocking sight and memory, of the aftermath, from a vehicular-borne improvised exploding device, (VBIED). Sitting in my living room I can close my eyes, and I’m instantly transported back to the bridge on Route Irish in Baghdad, Iraq. My memory is like a time machine, and now I’m back at that bridge with the colossal chaos of carnage and wreckage in front of me.
The smell hit me even before I got off the truck. The blue sky was spoiled with a billow of black smoke that tattooed my nostrils with a smell I will never forget. The sinister smoke smelled like a cannibal’s campfire with a touch of burnt hair. All around me, pulverized particles of ominous dust thickened the air that contaminated my lips with a noxious, gritty, salty taste.
Above my head the sun was hidden behind a cloud; casting somber rays down on me. It was over 110 degrees outside and sweat dripped from every pore soaking the goose bumps on my arms.
As I stepped off the truck, I could see the structure of the bridge was made of grey, hard concrete. This sight triggered a familiar visual memory of concrete over passes at home. That familiar feeling instantly vaporized, when 20ft in front of me, I saw a monstrous gaping hole, in the solid concrete. The unbelievably massive hole was like an entrance to hell that waited to welcome someone to fall in. To the far left, a spooky mosque loomed over me, that caused me to become hyper vigilant of its presence. My imagination pictured a sniper waiting in the crow’s nest that wanted to play a deadly game of peak-a-boo! The chain link fence that lined the bridge, on either side of me, was bowed out and mangled from the shock wave. It was like the bridge’s bones were broken. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of the amount of force it took to cause that.
My eyes scanned the scene in front of me, and took mental pictures of the mile long suicidal highway. Twisted, mangled, broken parts of car were randomly scattered across the highway, in front of me. Unidentifiable red splats littered the grey concrete under my feet. I could tell by the moist look and foul smell that it was some unknown body part, of the suicide bomber, that had been reduced to a bomber tartar for the flies. Next to the random splats, I found bits of burnt flannel clothing that revealed a disturbing glimpse of the bombers fashion sense. On the right side of the road, a leather sandal sat, missing the owner’s foot, but oddly still intact. As I walked to the edge of the bridge, and peered over, I felt as if I were dreaming. The smoke that emanated up from the burning car down below left me feeling like I was in a surreal haze. My mind processed no logical thoughts. My heart beat increased thumping against the ceramic plate in my flak vest. Unconsciously my eyes began to water from the burn of the intense smoke that savagely consumed the air. Down below, on the other side of the bridge, inside the car, submerged in flames, were the charred figures of two people.
When I open my eyes I’m back at home, in my living room, safe and sound. The only images of Iraq I see are on the TV. My mental time travel journey is over. Years separate my mind from that shocking day. That day may be gone but the memory of the VBIED has not left my mind yet, although I wish it would.