An explosion rumbled the earth below us and the young girl in my arms pressed her face to my chest. “Shh, it is ok,” I murmured, my shaking hands caressing the dirty, frightened face. “Chinara…” My voice broke before I could finish. She curled up closer, the sobs shaking her frail body. She was too young for this. Much, much too young for any of this. It is not fair.
The hardwood planks beneath me grated against my bruised back and I moaned softly, hoping Chinara would not hear me. Shifting ever so slightly, I turned my body in an attempt to hide my sister from our surroundings. I wanted to protect her from what was happening. The small closet we hid in would never be enough, not enough to stop or protect us.
The bombing grew louder—closer—and Chinara’s grasp tightened. “Azi,” she cried into my torn shirt.
“Shh…” I whispered, searching my brain for some way to comfort her. Why were the planes bombing our tiny village?
She turned her body to look at me, her eyes wet. “Do not forget, yes? Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. You and me, too.” Her words were sweetly spoken through the cries. My face softened and I knew she was right.
A hard lump formed in my throat. “Red, brown, yellow, black, and white.” Memories poured in, memories of our bible reading, prayers before bed, snuggles with Mama. The laughter with Papa. Memories of racing to our house before dark, being read a book before bed. Every memory, small and big, flashed before my eyes. The warmth of the family is so so close to each other. But those times were gone now. A new tune played in my head, one I’d heard the chief singing to his daughter. I did not know the tribal language, so the words were lost to me, but now I made my own. I opened my cracked lips and began. “Close your eyes, count to seven…” The bombs from the planes rained down. The village was already destroyed and now we waited for our turn. We would be going soon. “And when you wake.” my voice was dry and barely audible over the chaos outside. “We will be in heaven.”
Hugging tighter to my little sister, I hoped that it would come quickly. That we would go at the same time. That she would not have to watch. One, two… I coughed, the debris clogging my throat, making it impossible to breathe. Three. There was nothing I could do anymore. Jesus, be with us, I prayed silently. Mama and Papa had tried to prepare us for this, for anything. They were not prepared themselves, though. They thought it would not happen, not so soon. They had no idea-it happened so quickly. Four.
The fingers gripping my tunic relaxed, and my heart stopped. NO! No...Not yet! I rolled the limp girl over and shouted frantically, “Wake up!” Her eyelids flickered. Was she only sleeping? “Chinara!” I sobbed. Too young! She was too young!
“Six…” she whispered, startling me. Her eyelids were barely open.
My eyes locked on her face. “What?”
She opened her eyes, wet with tears, and repeated, “We are on six.”
I wrapped my arms around her, kissed her dusty cheek, and tried to block out the world around me. The explosions in the village, the wailing people outside. Why was this happening? She was too young. I was old enough, but her? She’s too young. She was too young to be ready to die.
“Seven,” we chorused together. She squeezed her eyes shut and we cuddled closer. I felt the warmth of her body and tried to swallow. Time seemed to still for one moment before words began playing inside my mind.
They are precious in His sight… The words echoed around in my head. This would be it, then. The fighting, the crying, the pain would be no more. Jesus loves the little children of the world. Now we’d get to meet Him—it was time for us to come home, like Mama and Papa had. They were taken a few weeks ago. They had just gone out when bombs had rained down-just like now. The bombs had stopped after a few, but a feeling overtook me and I knew something was wrong. After searching, I found them. Their bodies were almost completely unrecognizable-they were in pieces and blood was painted all over them. The small buildings around us were crumbled, and more bodies were surrounding us. These were people. People I have seen around the village. People I knew. How can they do this? Lord, forgive them, they do not know what they have done. They find pleasure in this. Lord, help them.
Chinara opened her eyes and peered at my bloody face. We had only barely escaped that first explosion, we would sure not be as lucky next time. “He’ll be there, you know. In heaven.”
I choked, comforted by her innocence and courage. Where was my courage? Lord, be with us, I prayed. To Chinara, I replied, “I know He will be.”
The bombs were on top of us, and I knew we didn’t have long. Sure, we had gotten to seven, but it was not over yet. Another one hit, right beside us. With the pathing of the bombs, we were sure to get hit. Lord, please. Help us. We need you. I held tightly to my sister, silent tears falling. She looked into my eyes, and for a moment I stared back into hers. I got lost in the deep brown color of her eyes and they reminded me of Mama. We would be home soon, so there was no reason to worry anymore.
I choked again and wept. I couldn’t protect her anymore. “I am sorry, Chinara.” Her eyes reflected her innocence and she gave a small smile. She knew we would be okay, and deep down I did too. In that second, her innocence and purity flashed before me as another bomb rained down.