Yesterday morning, I walked my son Sammy to school to see him off on his fourth day of TK. As we walked along the sidewalk, zigzagging back and forth on the pavement, most likely following the trail of bread crumbs from our previous route and a total refusal to walk in a straight in line, my son asked me if he could tell me something After issuing my approval, he told me he loved me. He says these things often and I eat it up every time. Recent days have been especially hard with him, and I knew at some point later in the day, even after a truly warm moment shared between father and son, I would feel frustration rattle my bones. I would raise my voice and march down the hallway in a steel-toed blaze of authority in an attempt to get him to go to sleep. Later, he will wake up from a nightmare, or from the sensation of a wet sheet and underpants. But he would return to sleep quickly, and more importantly, safely.
Omran Daqneesh, the five year old Syrian boy whose photograph has been circulating on social media sites across the globe, did not have this kind of night. He may have shared a similar moment with his mother and father that day as I did with my son, but on the evening of August 17th, he was awoken by something far different than a wet mattress, the face of a scary clown, or a dog barking at a horse on TV. Omran's sleep was interrupted by the piercing sounds of war. He and his family were in their home in the Syrian city of Aleppo when an airstrike hit nearby, reducing their house to rubble, from which miraculously he and his family were rescued. The footage of the 5 year old being pulled from the remains and placed in an ambulance to await medical attention is both disturbing and heartbreaking.
It's an image I can't shake from my head, and quite frankly, shouldn't be allowed to. The footage is so telling of just what kind of chaos people like myself will never know or come close to understanding but what, tragically for some, experience on a daily basis, and judging by the calm glare in the little boy's eyes, have grown used to. It's painful to think that this sort of event would become par for the course in some areas around the world. But it seems to be that way. I can't remember the last time a single image moved me to tears, but this one did. It's as if you can detect the boy's innocence, housed in his tiny dust-ridden body, but see that it's forever been changed. The left side of his face is covered in blood, a curtain of red that almost makes his left eye vanish from sight.
A video clip of a CNN news anchor fighting back tears as she reports the story shows him as he lifts his tiny hand to his head to examine the dust and blood that cover it, and calmly return it to the seat as he patiently waits. It's upsetting to watch and it pains me to think that although I know something must to be done to battle the unrest, I have no fucking idea what that thing is, or how someone like me can help. It kept me in front of the computer tonight, staring at it. It made me write about it. I have no illusions in thinking this blog will have any impact whatsoever. I just couldn't and can't stop thinking about this poor young boy, his adorable face smeared in the ashes of conflict of which he has no grasp.
This post follows one I shared last week that hinted at a certain level of optimism I feel despite recent tragedies that have occurred in the world, optimism that truthfully hasn't changed. What that shouldn't suggest, however, is that maintaining that optimism comes easy, especially when seeing footage like this. It's hard to fight the hate that can easily manifest itself and the disgust that can cut at your knees, begging you to succumb to it. Remaining positive is difficult. I do it for my family. And like millions of other people that his photograph has touched, I now do it for Omran.