Chapter 2 – The Days Between October 8th and 10th

In those early days of the war, we were mentally preparing ourselves for the worst. We were certain they had much more in store for us; the frequent bombings seemed merely a prelude. My small family and I discussed our few remaining options and lamented our past poor decisions. The self-blame and guilt resurfaced constantly. It is hard to forgive yourself for subjecting your children to such a war-torn environment, forcing them to face what they should never have to face at their age.

With little else to do, we braced ourselves for what was to come. We made an evacuation chart, prepared bags, stored food and water, and assigned tasks: my older son would carry the big bag, the younger would grab our phones and chargers, and I would shut off the gas and lock the doors. I placed the chart on the fridge and made the boys study it.

I tried to keep my sons’ spirits high, but it was a daunting task. They could sense my fear and stress, even if I tried to hide it. We spoke less and less, evading reality by going to bed early.

The days dragged on, punctuated only by more bombings. Time lost meaning; we couldn’t distinguish between days or hours. Our old routines and habits became irrelevant. Instead, new routines and chores emerged. We learned to fill water tanks by hand, hand-wash clothes on the roof under the watchful eyes of drones, and ration our use of water, food, and power. Every mundane chore became an arduous task.

Despite it all, the only time I felt some relief was when my husband used to come home safely, he’d bring whatever snacks or fruits he could buy for the boys. To me, he would pour out the horrific scenes he witnessed at the hospital. On the night of Monday, October 8th, he saw the worst thing in his life: a shredded man gathered in a black bag, collected by his father.

I didn’t know how to console him or myself. I may have never met that man, but I felt as if he were dear to me. I grieved for him, and my heart ached. You involuntarily begin to imagine any horrible thing that happened to someone else happening to your loved ones. I don’t know if it’s a trauma response or catastrophizing, but it becomes the normal course of your thoughts. Under unimaginable conditions, your brain tries to keep up with the madness.

I decided to fast. I was already losing my appetite, and they say fasting makes you more spiritual and patient. It was a lie; it made no difference.

By the night of October 9th, the bombings became more intense. We decided to abandon the first floor and sleep on the ground level in a room with smaller windows and well-protected walls. The four of us lay side by side, me encasing our youngest as a shield and my husband with our oldest.

I used to be a night owl in normal times, but I had developed a new habit: forced sleep. In previous wars, the nights were the worst. You couldn’t shut your eyes out of fear until you fell ill or exhausted. But in 2024, I made progress. I lay down, shut my eyes, and lost myself in unconsciousness. What a delight it was—a complete blackout of reality, my Gazan reality. If only sleep could last forever.