They bowed their heads to say grace, then started to eat a rare breakfast together when the cell phone rang.
The man and his two-and-a-half year old son were the only ones at the table this morning. Normally, they are accompanied by the son’s three older siblings and his mother. Today was different. The others went with their mother early to get badly needed new clothes before the day became too hot. The youngest was irritated when his next oldest brother teased him by saying that he was too young to wear clothes anyway – just still a baby. This little bit of squabbling stopped quickly when Baddu, the father, looked briefly at the teasing son in a way they all know meant to stop whatever they were doing at the moment.
His mother assured little Yas that she would bring something back for him and that he was needed to keep his papa company this morning. Actually, Papa wanted the outing to be put off for another day, because he awoke with a strong desire to be with his family. He knew that this task was something important to do, and said that he only wished to not be alone this morning.
“You love your papa, don’t you?” Mother asked. “He does not want to be alone this morning.”
This answer satisfied Yas who he ran to papa and flung himself arms first into papa’s embrace as the others prepared to leave the simple four room house in a village above Mosul, Iraq.
Usually, they didn’t eat breakfast at all, but Baddu wanted today to be special with his son. So, he placed samoon bread and date molasses on the table. He made coffee for himself and gave his son a glass of water to drink. A large crucifix hung on the wall behind Baddu’s chair. Yas looked at Jesus as he said grace with his father. Then as in many meals before, they began to eat.
The ring-tone insisted on interfering with breakfast so Baddu stopped sipping his coffee, put the cup down, and answered.
Baddu recognized the voice of his cousin right away. “Baddu, go now! They are in the village! You don’t have time to take anything, go now!”
Baddu knew exactly who his cousin was referring to as they had talked daily about ISIS and what could happen. His cousin lived in a higher part of the village and would be the first to know if danger was close. Yet, Baddu never thought that ISIS would actually enter his village. He believed that ISIS would be stopped at Mosul before they gained enough momentum.
Yas was watching papa’s face. He knew how his father looked and talked when he was worried about something. Suddenly, Yas’ head jerked to his right and he focused intently out the window. He could see a neighbor pointing at their house. He could hear loud voices and a loud banging noise. Something was wrong. At the same moment, Baddu also turned his head sharply still holding the cell phone to his ear, as he quickly understood his cousin’s warning was necessary.
The phone dropped, bounced off of the table and landed on the floor. Baddu’s chair made a loud scrapping noise as he stood up. He barely kept from moving the table as he rushed around it to grab his son, lifting Yas quickly up and into a firm hold that he knew well.
Which way, which way!
He headed towards the rear door of his house. In one smooth movement, he reached for the handle, grabbed it and flung the door open. His feet did not stop moving as he turned a little to face the loud banging noise coming from the front of the house. These rooms were small and he could see out of the corner of his eye that the front door shook a little. Still moving, he turned himself straight in order to find his way out, slamming into what must have been the door jamb. Alert enough from the blow to feel a soreness in his head, he fell backwards onto the floor only partially conscience, knowing that Yas was still in his arms, protected from the fall and hopefully unhurt.
I must get up…I must get up…my son!
As if in a dream, Baddu managed to rise, stumble out the doorway and outside to the back of the house. No one was around. He slowly found the way to the main street, avoiding being seen by any of the black clad men going from house to house armed with rifles. Some had swords. Red swords?
It took a while, but Baddu managed to find his way to the outskirts of the village. He ran knowing only that he had to get away from the danger. No thought of the route. He just ran towards the strange quietness ahead. Only now as the adrenaline driven escape started to slow down did Baddu begin to think about the rest of his family. He hugged Yas tighter as he moved quickly further and further away from the violence. He tried to console Yas. The calmer his facial expressions to Yas helped to slow Yas’ whimpering a bit.
Suddenly, there was gun fire. Looking around Baddu spotted two helicopters landing about a block away. These could not belong to ISIS. Perhaps it was the Iraqi Air Force or maybe the Americans.
With the adrenaline once again fueling his body, he ran towards the landing site oblivious to the danger that the sound of gunfire indicated. He could see people rushing to board the closest helicopter. As Baddu got closer the craft rose slightly on its wheels as if it was going to take off, then settled back down. People rushed to get in, too many people.
Now he was standing at the wide open door.
Yas must be first. Help me put him in!
Two strong hands reached for Yas, took control of him and passed him on to a woman who placed him in her lap.
All of a sudden, the helicopter jerked. Baddu was thrown backwards landing on the ground. He watched as it rose into the air nosing gracefully foreword and getting smaller and smaller in the distance.
How could it be? There was still the sensation of his son in his arms as he lay on the ground. The sensation suddenly was gone. He thought he felt Yas being pulled out of his arms again.
There was no one left at the house to see and remember the back of a man in black clothing leaving through the front doorway. He was holding something that looked like wiggling legs under one arm and in the hand of the other, a red sword. The large crucifix that once hung for years behind Baddu near the dining table now lay broken into pieces on the floor near the back door. The ceramic head of Christ quickly surrounded by a pool of blood, growing larger and larger . . .
Author’s note: Although this is a work of fiction, the story was inspired by actual events.