Boom! There were five seconds of dead silence in my classroom. Our teacher yelled for us to get under our desks. As I sat huddled beneath my desk at my new school, I couldn’t believe we were getting bombed. The bombs got closer, the vibrations got louder. It felt like I was in a blender. The next thing I knew, the teacher was yelling for us to run. I thought, RUN? Is she crazy? She wants us to run? But I found myself being carried away with the crowd of students swarming the hallways like ants.
As I was propelled down the hallway, all I could think about was my little brother, Zeid. Where is he? Is he okay? Am I going to find him before the bombs strike the school? I pushed these thoughts aside and concentrated on searching for him. When I entered his classroom and didn’t find him, I thought about all the times I’d made fun of him, yelled, threatened, and chased him from my room. I felt hopeless and panicked; sprinting across the hall and into a first grade classroom, I found Zeid sitting at his desk staring into space. At that moment, adrenaline took over – all I wanted to do was get him home. I yelled his name ten times before he surfaced from his daze.
“Zeid!” I yelled. “We have to go!”
“Okay,” he said, giving me his hand. As we dashed out of the classroom, the school’s doors opened and the Assad soldiers came crashing in. They were ordering everyone to stop moving, but nobody listened. The chaos continued.
My brother and I ran for the door that was closing. In the last moment, Zeid and I slipped out into the streets of Damascus. We ran, my hopes rising and then immediately dropping when I heard heavy footsteps behind us. Glancing back, I heard a bullet zoom past my ear. My heart was beating so fast I thought it would explode, and my legs felt weak with terror. I was almost ready to sit down and give up when I saw my brother looking up at me. At that moment, I knew my brother saw me as a superhero; I had to keep running.
The footsteps behind us faded, and, looking back, I noticed the soldier dropping away. Our school was in flames, the butterfly mural disappearing into the smoke. My brother and I entered a snack store to catch our breath and call home. The store owner, however, snatched the phone away and growled, “Go home!” I grabbed Zeid by his hoodie and sprinted out of the store.
The silence in the street was deafening. I ran on my tip-toes, hoping to go unnoticed. Soon, however, I heard the thunder of footsteps behind me and sprinted faster, thinking it was another soldier chasing us. From behind me, I heard my brother’s voice, “Why are you running from me?” My intense fear had made me forget, momentarily, that my brother was with me.
“Where are we? Where is my backpack? I want food! Why didn’t you buy me something from the snack store?” my brother complained. Normally, this would have been annoying, but I was still reeling from the realization that I had almost lost Zeid. As we made our way home, I promised myself that from that day on, I would always take care of my brother, no matter what.
As I stand here today in America, I realize how fortunate I was to escape Syria, how fortunate I am to have a (safe) roof over my head. I imagine a person back in Syria who is equally smart, kind, and has the same intentions as me: the difference is that she is trapped
in a war zone, while I’m lucky enough to be here.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.