Stitched Up – By Tom Squitieri

It is a sunrise in the middle of the night, an aberration of moments, the jarring of history and hope, of that seismic shift in life. The full force of the universe from the past, reminding of the day and the moment. That path is one that can no longer be followed. 

On March 5, 1993, it happened. The dodging that had been so successful in so many war zones faltered. The humanitarian aid truck I was riding into the Sarajevo airport was hit by an RPG, setting it on fire. My body was laced with shrapnel, The driver was unconscious. The bullets were like the cliché — flying all over.

I think of that every March for the obvious reason — it was a defining moment in a life — and now with an added daily reminder: the news today is filled with stories of humanitarian aid convoys and workers being attacked in a war zone.

Thus, I have a double pain.  Some in my body, from the shrapnel that remains in me and reminds me every time it is damp. Some in my soul, on the new assaults on those whose place I once was.

Yet what of that day long ago and how, each March I remember, reflect and, in a way reload?

The fact that I lived prompted some to note that I was only “slightly wounded” – as if that made the events less dangerous, less important.

Others, however, worried that it could change me. Truth is, it reaffirmed many things in me. It made me nod quietly. It told me very clearly that I was no longer the teen-ager I had been, and was the man I thought and hoped that I would become.

Because it was another March attack, when I was 16, that was the one that really wounded me and changed me.

That attack also was unexpected – the crying call of my mother in the middle of the night, as my father writhed on the bed. The call for the ambulance, that took him away, took him out of my life, and took away my childhood.

He died on St. Patrick’s Day, and the joys revelry others celebrate on that day always rings in dissonance to me.

That attack is the one that seared deep, that shifted how the next years and most likely the next decades would be. In fact, my father’s departure set in motion the elements that led me to be a reporter — and led me to the March 5 moment.

That is the attack that changed me and made the March 5 attack in Sarajevo, and others in other war zones, reaffirmations of who I was and what I was doing. Thus, when that truck exploded and blood streamed down my face and metal removed from me without anesthesia, I was ready. I had been forged as a man more than two decades earlier. That day called upon me to act once again, to save the life of another as well as my own.

I could not save my father’s life. Perhaps I did save the life of someone else’s father.

I now understand how lessons learned from one of the darkest, most challenging periods of my life have purpose some time down the road – a last gift from my father.

A sunrise in the middle of the night. Not a dream. Not imagination. A gateway that is visible, to harken those gateways from before that were forced or missed or teased or yearned. Like then, it says nothing more.

The black leather jacket I wore on that March 5 and took a bullet has been stitched up, its visible wounds taken care of. Much like me.  It still fits me well.

I am not worried about the Ides of March. It is the other days in March that cause me to pause.

Curated by The Bloom Staff

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