Under Attack (In Honor of Veteran’s Day)

Iraqi Freedom

This is a picture of the Coalition Press Information Center (CPIC) crew in Baghdad, Iraq back in 2003. I am the 3rd one from the left.

It was a typical morning in Baghdad about eight months into our yearlong deployment.  Daylight was beginning to peek into our window and a thick haze lurked about the polluted sky.  Morning prayer chants blared from the local mosque loud enough to wake the dead.  But they didn’t bother me though.  I was immune to them by this time because they were as regular as our meals:  three times a day, every day.

I was slowly stirring from sleep just before my alarm clock was set to sound, when all of a sudden I heard a loud thud.  Followed by another.  And then another. 

“What the…?” I muttered to myself.

We were under attack again.  We had had false alarms before, but something was different about this one.   

“Boom!” I could feel my bed vibrate on impact.  The Iraqi hotel we were staying in, which was once inhabited by Saddam Hussein, felt like it was going to crumble with us in it.

The tremor jolted my battle buddy Thompson and me from sleep. We shot out of bed.  Scurried around the room trying to find our vital belongings.  The sudden unrest made us forget all that we had learned about properly responding to an enemy attack.  But we were not trained for this kind of attack.  We had been trained to fight in the woods, camouflaging ourselves and digging foxholes, not escaping a 12-floor hotel in the middle of the city.  Unlike what we expected, our enemy was not a foreign soldier in uniform. It was terrorism riding on the backs of rocket-propelled grenades launched from hundreds of meters away.  Adrenaline took over.  Our agenda was to get out of there as fast as we could and that meant staying on our feet.

We threw on our shoes.  Grabbed only what was necessary: weapons and ammunition, ID cards, bulletproof vests, and helmets. 

Then we heard banging on our room door.

“Get out of the building!” yelled the Gurka security guard, going from room to room confirming our fear.

“Let’s go Wright!” my battle buddy yelled, thrusting open the door.

Not knowing what to expect on the other side of our door, we hurried out into smoke, debris, and eerie darkness amid cries of help from other frightened individuals.

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This was the second attack. The Iraqi insurgents had their sights better set this time.


And then panic begins.

You open your eyes.  Open them so wide your head hurts.  You order your lungs to slow down, NOW, you need to breath, need it NOW.  But your airways ignore you.  Your chest heaves, contracts, expands, and suddenly you’re gagging on smoke.  Your eyes squint and your face winces and all you can manage to do is cough and sputter.  Your hands reach and feel.  Somewhere a cold front has passed and chills envelope your body…… You want to cry.  You would if you could.  But tears would only worsen your vision.

Panic.

“Thompson!  I can’t see!” I screamed to my battle buddy who was already way ahead of me at the staircase.


“I’m right here Wright!”  She roared.

“Where?  I can’t see you!”  I cried in desperation.

Then I felt her grab my hand and lead me to the staircase.

What I remember next is the cramped stairwell as we scurried down ten long flights.  I remember turning my thoughts heavenward, praying, pleading for my life not to end like this. 

“He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty… He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty!”  I stammered over and over again to myself.

Someone was yelling.  No, not just yelling.  Wailing and bleeding.  I saw men carrying an injured lady, blood trailing behind them.  Thompson and I pushed our way through the hoards of people on the stairs.  They were moving too slowly, and we wanted out.  Fast. 

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Rocket-propelled grenades were fired from across the street, about 300 meters away from the hotel.

Once we made it to the bottom floor we stood in the middle of the lobby, panting uncontrollably, trying to locate familiar faces.  I wondered if we were now safe or if we’d actually have to defend ourselves.  Seeing the infantry soldiers and the military police swarming around the doors made me feel safer.  I looked around the room at the people, thankful for peace, thankful for friends, thankful to be alive. 

We were gathered to hear further instructions about evacuation.  I could see many crying, some hugging coworkers, and many looking frightened and puzzled as to what had just happened.

We soon found out that a group of insurgents had set up a bright blue trailer loaded with about 20 rockets about 300 meters away from us.  Apparently they pulled it there, dropped it off and left knowing that at approximately 7 am the rockets would hit their target and change our lives forever.  We also learned that one Army colonel’s life was claimed in the attack.  A rocket had flown directly into his room window, exploding with him in it.   

At that moment I realized the devastating, raping effects of terrorism which leaves its victims defenseless.  Although in a crowded room I felt vulnerable.  With a loaded weapon, bullet proof vest, and the military police surrounding me, I felt vulnerable.

Suddenly a thought hit me.  If it had not been for divine protection, I could have been the one dead instead of the one experiencing the aftermath. 

My battle buddy turned to me and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Thanks for coming back for me.” I managed to say between sobs, hugging her for the first time ever.

“You know I couldn’t leave my buddy back there,” she said.

That was the beginning of a most eventful and life-changing day in Baghdad, Iraq—one that I will never forget for as long as I live.  In that 15 minutes of fear I learned alot; the importance of preparedness and teamwork, but most importantly I gained a new appreciation for life, which can be here one minute and gone the next.

There were more scary days to follow during our deployment,but none like the day we were under attack.

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A view of the side of the hotel. I actually think this was the first attempt (target practice) to attack the Al Rasheed Hotel and its inhabitants.

I wrote this in 2004 after returning home from my year-long deployment in Iraq.  I thought I’d share this in honor of all the Veterans out there who truly sacrifice their lives for their country. 

          

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rodney Remson
    Jan 02, 2015 @ 08:59:47

    Bri, thank you for your insightful recollection. You decorated a memory in my head like a scene from a movie. I was there and could not remember the details like that. I read this article and felt the rush, adrenaline, the confusion, the processing all at once. PTSD. Safe to say, something like this has changed us and because of the experience and your blessed talent to describe it with detail. I am able to see it from more than just my perspective and have an elevated understanding. I understand we were tested to an extreme level and we still made it. God’s grace allowed us not only to survive but to take ownership of this life-changing experience and move forward with it. Like you my sister, you have taken ownership and have used the experience to make yourself a better person and make us better people.

    Reply

    • Young Woman in Action
      Jan 02, 2015 @ 09:06:58

      Rodney, thank you for leaving this touching and thoughtful comment. I did not realize how much reading it would affect other soldiers like you. It is amazing how 12 years later we are still touched by that moment. The awesome thing,like you said, God used that moment to grow us. I am honored to have served alongside you, buddy!

      Reply

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