I want to tell you a story today, a story that has a big room in my memory. I didn't like to share this story earlier, but today I feel I should pen it down. I want to pen it down not because someone would learn something from it, it is just an event and don't expect a moral of the story statement at the end. I want to write because I want the memories to be afresh every time I read it back. So here is how it goes.
I was in school then. I don't remember the class but I was not very matured. I was still a child who could go to dad and mom to sleep with them at night when I was scared. One fine winter night after completing my homework, I enjoyed the dinner with my parents. I always enjoyed the food mom cooked, it was better than the buffet served at the 5 stars and it still is. After the dinner we went to bed. Since it was winter and was cold outside, we regularly went to bed by 10 or 10:30. I was lying in my bed thinking of something when some footsteps down the road broke the complete silence outside. After the few seconds I heard someone screaming. I couldn't figure out what he said but I was startled to find out commotion at this time of night, specially because there were curfew orders after 8pm. While I was trying to digest the sudden irregularity, I heard a few rounds of gunshots. By this time I knew something was going wrong, really scary. I slowly went to my parents room and slid in their bed between them. I knew both of them were awake. Dad assured me that everything would be fine and not to worry.
I know, I intentionally missed out the preface. Let me give you some background before I proceed. The political situation of the place where this happened was not very stable. A group had decided to rebel and they used to run their parallel government. There were frequent attack on government institutions and the military also almost always gave a equivalent reply. Now you know the reason for the curfew and you know why even a few screams and some rounds of fire can wake up the whole family. Then began which feels like the longest night of my life.
Now that you are a little aware of the situation let me proceed with my story. Apart from the small attacks on government institutions this group sometimes had a large scale attack where they would target all the government institutions, offices and police and military bases of a city simultaneously. These attacks were so planned and large scale, they almost felt like wars. After they opened fire things started gathering pace. Within a matter of a few minutes, a few rounds of fire turned into a full fledged armed action. What happened after that is impossible for me to describe in words. But still I will give it a try. The first attack was made at the military base camp. Very soon there was no electricity and the phone was dead. My house not being very far from the military base, I could witness(not eye-witness, we could only hear) the events very clearly. As time passed, the gunfight became heavier. It was less than half an hour when I heard the first bomb blast. I was scared, I couldn't sleep, I didn't know what to do, so I thought I would keep track on the number of bomb blasts that night. Till today I don't understand what was I thinking when I decided to do that but what I remember is that within a short duration of less than 10 minutes there were more than 50 blasts and very soon I lost the count.
The house we were in had tin shed roof. Not very far from our house was a building which had almost all the important government offices. It was merely a 10 minutes walk. We knew that it will soon be attacked, and as soon as they started bombing the building we could feel the vibrations even in our house. With each blast some particles would fly as far as our house and land up to our roof. I could hear the particles sprinkling on our roof with each blast. Since it was a huge building and was very strong, we could feel the vibrations for very long. To keep it bluntly they struggled destroying the building whole night, and I would say they succeeded in it. But I had a bigger reason to worry. The district court was merely 2 minutes walk from our house. If they would have that in their target, my night would have turned out to be more horrible. But by the grace of good god they didn't do anything to the court.
The fight continued whole night. Military forces were giving a tough fight. As time passed the sound grew louder and louder, the ammunition grew stronger and my heartbeats became faster and faster. There was nothing to say the whole night. I didn't know it I would be able to see the next sunrise. Hours of gunfire and blasts had nearly torn my eardrums. The whole night I could hear people running and screaming. They were cursing each other, abusing each other, killing each other. By 3:30 am or so the firing had decreased. The continuous bullet spray had turned to an intermittent firing and hiding routine. In the dark suddenly they would fire something that would cause a very bright red light all around and with it came heavy round of firing which ceased as soon as the light went off. I think they could see their opponent in that light and so they shot. When the light went off they saved their bullets because they had to last the whole night with the limited stock they had carried with them. After a couple of hours resumed the silence of previous evening. It was dawn and they had gone. Everyone in the city was awake, nobody had the courage to step out of their door.
At around 6am we heard a group of people singing some song and marching. It was the military. They were motivating themselves and the others and were letting the civilians know that the situation was under control. The drama for the night was over. Slowly people came out of their houses. Everyone was happy to see the day's sunlight. I, along with many others, went through the roads of the city, and found out the abhorrent scene. There were empty bullet shells scattered everywhere. We could see grenades lying on the ground, some of them were still alive. We could see blood at places and the government buildings completely destroyed, not a single shred of paper remains. One scene I would never forget, someone was shot on the head and pieces of his skull fell around and his gray matter remained intact on the road. Many shops were looted. Doors could be seen broken open and showcases could be seen destroyed. It was disgusting. After a short round I returned back to home. I knew that this event was going to make a lasting place in my memory and I still feel the same about it.
I am not trying to draw conclusion here but I would like to appreciate both the sides of the fight who were sensible to keep it between themselves and not to drag a single civilian. Not a single common man was killed in such a massive firing. After that event it took many days for the people to get back to normal. Schools started again after a few days. But after that day, every evening I was afraid if I would again have to face the same long night. I was never mentally ready to go through another similar mental trauma. This fear haunted me for a few years. Today I know things are alright, but that night remains vivid in my memory. That was the longest night of my life.