Part 18: We Survived

I did not hear the explosion. A superhuman shock wave hurled me into an infinitely black nothingness. Then it was silent – deathly silent. After an eternity, the children screamed in agony.

The darkness tasted of lime. An unknown acrid smell made breathing even harder. Only now did I feel my sister. In the dark, she clutched my legs, gasping and struggling for air. Slowly my senses returned. I felt for her face. She felt unharmed, yet she was close to suffocating. I was helpless. Suddenly, a pinpoint beam of light from the basement window pierced the dusty darkness. I found the girl of the same age from our house.

We searched and groped for tools. After heavy heaving and levering, we had made a bright crack out of the thin beam of light. We lifted the little children, and they dashed outside like wild rabbits. Soon the light gap was so large that even the older children could escape into the open. Finally, the girl and I crawled out, too. Everyone would have been safe in the destroyed house because the bombs of the second wave were still falling.

Hannchen and I took refuge under the nearby stone railroad tunnel and sought shelter in the niches in the walls. Finally, the noise of the engines and the flak died down. We ventured out of our cover and saw the destroyed house. Where our apartment had been, there was only pale blue sky. In the defoliated chestnut trees in front of the house, shreds of curtains hung and, as if in mockery, a torn sofa cushion. Fortunately, the bomb had not gone off, which saved the lives of all the children, but I never saw any of them again.

Little Hannchen was black, you can’t get blacker than that. She had probably been standing in front of the cleaning hatch of the chimney when the explosion occurred. The shock wave had blown the soot of the collapsing chimney over her little body. She looked terrifying. And now? I remembered acquaintances of my parents who lived on the outskirts of the city in a similar settlement. There we went on our way. Hannchen was dressed in black from top to bottom, I was wearing shorts and a checkered shirt with a colorful raffia bag and a box with important documents.

At first the acquaintances did not recognize us, dirty as we were. Then we were bathed and fed and finally sent to the bombed house. Who else would know what had become of us? Mother was already standing in front of the rubble, screaming for her children. She did not believe the rescuers that no one should have died in that pile of rubble. Finally, our father came off shift as well. All four of us stood in front of the rubble of the house and looked up into the pale blue sky where our home had been this morning. Father took us in his arms and said only, ‘Everything is not so bad, we are healthy and still alive.’ 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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