May 2, 2013
Manar is a 23-year-old Christian and close friend of our staff members. Her account matches those of other witnesses to blasts inside Damascus: a busload of shabiha appear on the scene shortly before the explosion, then begin screaming and cursing in the streets, forcing cars to pull over, the explosion goes off and the shabiha begin firing into the air. Our coverage of Tuesday’s bombing is here.
When I got on the bus to Baramkeh at 10:30 on Tuesday morning, my mother called. She was worried because a blast had occurred in Midan this morning. I asked her not to worry, and told her that everything was fine but traffic was busy. She asked me to take care, but her voice sounded anxious. Once I hung up, the firing started.
I was calm, looking at people around me. They were acting normally, as if nothing was happening. The firing stopped at one point. I saw two muscular men, with Russian rifles that were as big as me, walking down the street. They were screaming like animals at our the bus telling us to “pull over on the right.”
We pulled over and another green bus, just like ours, passed us. There were no people on it, and once it started moving, they [the gunmen] jumped on it. I kept my eyes on them to see what their story was. They were 50 meters away from us when one of them leaned out of door and started shooting in the air.
Our bus kept going, but within five minutes, I heard a sound that I’ve never heard in my life. The explosion was so huge that the entire bus shook. Thank God the windows were open so they didn’t break, but shattered glass was all over the place from the cars around us. It looked like rice and sugar. There was a dead silence after that, before we could realize what had just happened.
I still wasn’t afraid because I checked myself and was still in one piece. A minute later, the sounds of firing mixed with women’s cries. Some people were cursing God, others were praying; a thousand phrases mixed together. The driver pulled over under the bridge. I was standing, but had to crouch down when the firing intensified and bullets started to hit the bus. I hid myself and placed my head between my legs. I kept talking to the girls around me; they were afraid. I told them to stay calm and not leave the bus.
I stayed in the bus because the world was upside-down around me. It then started to calm down, and the driver opened the bus’s doors. He decided to head back to Bab Touma. I got off the bus and figured I could find shelter there if things intensify again.
I saw people on the street panicking. In such a situation, everything looks different. The picture looks slower, the sounds are loader and the smells are stronger. Your senses are fully alerted. The amount of smoke was unbelievable. People were running; so many that they looked like the waves in the sea. Things started to calm down and I wanted to call my brother and tell him that I was okay. Of course that’s when the cell-phone networks stopped working.
I found a taxi and ran towards it. I told him, “Just get me out of here.”