Thursday, July 24, 2014

'Raining humans'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

If I may borrow a line from a song and turn it around, rainy days do not always get me down. But these past days and weeks of July have been particularly trying on the nerves, what with a bombed commercial aircraft raining humans and debris from the Ukrainian sky and onto fields of sunflowers and roofs of homes; what with bombs raining on Palestinian children who cower in fear in makeshift shelters because of hateful adults on both sides of the conflict.

Hereabouts, we have verbal missiles of the political kind crisscrossing our narrowing horizon and, just recently, two typhoons crossing the Philippine area of responsibility. (We’ve gotten used to saying “PAR” now and we know what it means, thanks to the weather warning experts. But we don’t get warned about the fallout from other national disturbances.)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that got shot down last week while it was cruising 33,000 feet above a Ukrainian disputed territory (being defended by Ukrainian troops from Russian-backed and -armed Ukrainian separatists) was among the latest big casualty of war between people of the same homeland but with an external power being part of the mess. International TV news channels have been airing leaders of nations’ belligerent and damning words and showing the accused parties’ cold and intransigent stance. All these and more while the families of victims from many countries were left to themselves for many days with no idea about where to find answers and how to recover their loved ones’ remains.

The Ukraine-Russia border area where MH17’s wreckage lay was a no-man’s-land for some time, except for the rebels who reportedly carted off their finds, the plane’s two black boxes among them. (The black boxes were turned over to airline officials two days ago.)

Many are in finger-pointing and “finger-printing” mode, with the Russian-backed separatists of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” becoming the prime suspect for blowing MH17 out of the sky. The bomb, some experts say, was Russian-made, but Ukraine might also possess such a weapon. No side has yet confessed to releasing the missile that killed 298 persons on board MH17.  
International media are now on the scene and we get to see faces and hear voices of ordinary people on the ground, they on whose village MH17 and its passengers fell. One of the interesting things I read was about the residents of the Ukrainian hamlet who experienced the “raining humans.” News Corp Australian came out with the story “MH17: Inside Ukraine’s ‘village of the dead’ and the tragic tale of body number 26.”

“A resident of the tiny Ukraine hamlet of Rassypnoye has told of the horrific moment a body from MH17 ploughed through her roof—and how she initially assumed it was a bomb. “Like so many of her neighbours in the so-called ‘village of the dead,’ Inna Tipunovais is appalled at the time it has taken authorities to get to them…

“She knows her ‘corpse’ only by the moniker Body 26 but the 60-year-old believes their lives will forever be intertwined. “‘I want to know about her, who she was, her name, these things but they just call her Number 26,’ Inna said emotionally.

“Inna is standing inside her son’s granny flat at the side of her home and looking up to the roof where the body crashed through and into the deep blue summer sky above.

“‘The police tell me this we call her Number 26 before they put all of her in a black bag and carried her away. It took them a while to find all of her. It was very sad’…

“‘She was only half a person but she was a woman, maybe in her 50s but her head …. and her foot they found that up there in the roof still, but she was here with us in the house. We know the situation of war and are so aware of bombs dropping and we thought it was a bomb but it was worse. I know this is all part of war but it is very sad…’

“There’s Inna’s elderly neighbour local farmer Sascha—he too had a passenger from the Malaysia Airlines flight drop through his roof.

“Tatiana said it was ‘raining humans’ as she tended the fields and now can’t erase the scene from her mind. Nor can Liliya Alexandrovnr Kuhta, 43, who with her daughter saw bodies and debris fall across the village. In all, 39 victims of the Boeing flight landed in the village.

“‘Everyone here cried for two days, cried and cried and cried, the crying was non-stop, how could you not? But then we knew what we had to do. We lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with the local coal pit workers and walked through into the fields of sunflowers to find these people, they deserved respect and we went to get them.’

“The coal pit workers also yesterday walked through large wheat belts looking for bodies.

“Liliya points out where two bodies were immediately found in her village yesterday, then walks through the village’s three roads pointed out to the left and then the right and then the roof of a home, then a barn, then a field.

“‘Over there was a nine-month-old baby, just nine months,’” she said.

“When the sunflowers fall (die) we will find more, I know this. It’s terrible, sad…”

Who was “Number 26”? She is not just a number. She is a person who belongs somewhere—to a family, to a community who love her. Who are they, where are they?

To comfort myself this messy month of July, I pick up Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali” (a constant reading companion) and drink up some lines in the book: “Like a rain-cloud of July hung low with its burden of unshed showers let all my mind bend down at thy door in one salutation to thee/ Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to thee…”#