I’m from Iraq, and when my family and I were leaving the country (via car), an explosive-laden vehicle exploded less than 1000ft ahead of us on the freeway. I was 9. The entire car shook and swerved a bit, we saw the explosion go up in the air, and the driver came to a screeching halt. This was in 2006 at the height of the post-2003 sectarian violence (essentially a civil war), and the bomb was targeting an American/Iraqi military checkpoint near the Iraq-Syria border.
To this day, I think of how if we had just left our house a few minutes sooner, if our driver had driven just a tad bit faster, if the tiniest things had been different, all of us would have been toast.
After the plume of smoke and flying car/body parts settled and road was cleared, we continued and crossed the border into Syria less than 1 hour later. That was my last memory of Iraq, I haven’t been back since, and it honestly still to this day feels like it was a final message from the universe telling me: “go, don’t come back, you’re better off elsewhere” (Maybe that’s superstitious of me but I sure am doing a lot better here, I’m a medical student in the US now, and I have no intention of going back unless for humanitarian work purposes)
Ironically, my parents had decided to take the road from Baghdad >Mosul > Aleppo > Damascus, essentially traveling in a U shape instead of a straight line from Baghdad > Damascus because that path would cross through Iraq’s Anbar province (including the infamous Fallujah), and at the time Anbar was a stronghold of Al Qaeda, who targeted Shiites/Americans in particular and my dad was both Shiite and had worked for the US Military. The idea was that the U-shaped path would be safer despite taking 3 times as long, HAH.
There were multiple near-death experiences as is natural when living in the active part of a war zone (Baghdad, my family home was under 2miles away from the Green Zone where the US embassy is), but that was the worst one. The fact that I made it out still makes me feel like I’ve got a full-time angel constantly watching over me.