Friday, January 26, 2007
Bangs and booms in Baghdad
The background noise of Baghdad isn't quite like the background noise of, say, New York's traffic, or living under an airport flight path.
Here, the "noise" is gunfire, occasional mortars, IED's and car bombs.
Over the past few weeks back in Iraq for the eighth time, the car bomb booms have been audible almost daily. You begin to be able to identify roughly how far away they are ("Wow, that was only maybe two miles away") and in what district.
Gunfire becomes recognizable in terms of both distance and type of firearm - AK 47s have a pretty distinctive sound, and when you hear the "crack" then you know it's pretty close. "Cracks" are common.
This past week or so we've also had a grandstand view of the Haifa Street battles a mile from our Bureau (although not quite as grandstand as CNN's Arwa Damon, who was with U.S. troops at the time.)
There was the familiar thudding the heavy caliber .50 caliber machine gun, the "whomp-bang" of mortars (or "whoosh" if they're outgoing,) and the louder, more distinct bang of a hellfire missile fired from an Apache helicopter swooping overhead.
When it comes to car bombs, our windows will routinely rattle, although today was the first time I've felt rather unnerved by one.
We were sitting at our computers in our Bureau when there was a terrific explosion and the windows more than rattled - I was convinced they were going to fall in on my back.
The building shook - really shook. The exterior kitchen door blew open and all of us - all "used" to bangs and booms - instinctively ducked.
It was a suicide car bomber (targeting an Iraqi Army patrol) who detonated his vehicle not more than 500 yards from our bureau.
Two people died, more than a dozen were wounded.
We soon returned to "normal," but it was the closest bomb to our building I can recall. A wake up of sorts.
And once again a reminder that ordinary Iraqis are facing this carnage every day. We keep a white board with daily death tolls, differentiating between bomb victims and the ubiquitous "bodies dumped in the streets, most showing signs of torture." 45 here, 30 (a good day) there, one day this month there were 71.
It's a macabre running total, but we all are intensely aware because of our daily contact with local folk that these are people. Husbands, fathers, sons, daughters, mothers.
I sometimes wonder if folks back home see them that way. It's easy to see a scoreboard rather than a face.
-- From Michael Holmes, CNN Anchor
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