in this excerpt from The Syrian Andrew, Nadia and the others have left a village in South Lebanon with a UN convoy responsible for getting three thousand people to safety but Israeli planes attacked the convoy killing scores of people.
The convoy had finally reached the Bekaa Valley and was approaching Joub Jannine when Andrew heard planes overhead. A loud buzzing suddenly filled the air as the jets swooped down. They came in low, from behind the convoy. Before Andrew could turn to look, an explosion shook the car. Samir slammed on the brakes. Andrew jumped out of the car and cranked his head upward, catching a glimpse of two planes arching their wings back toward the sky. Sonia and Leila, carrying the orphaned children in their arms, rushed toward him. Standing together, they watched as the planes disappeared into slim glimmers of silvery metal during a turn before heading toward them again.
Everyone flattened themselves on the ground. The attack was quick and precise. The car windows shattered, showering their faces with splintered glass and debris.
Andrew was on his feet in an instant, looking behind him. “Oh my God—Samir, Tony, come with me!” He shouted. “Nadia, get back in the car and stay there.”
He heard Nadia scream. She’d seen the smoldering remains of metal and body parts in the car behind her. He watched her open her car door and climb out. Sonia tried to stop her but she pushed past. Andrew met her head on, throwing his arms around her to shield her from the sight.
“It’s too late, darling. There’s nothing you can do. They died instantly.”
“Poor Elie and Anna,” Nadia said. “And the children in the trunk, what…?”
He shook his head. “They’re gone.”
“Why, God?” She cried. “Why did you let this happen?”
The planes swooped down again. Whatever they were firing took large chunks out of the road. Debris flew into the air like an erupting volcano. Glass shattered; people screamed.
Andrew pushed Nadia to the ground. As he shouted to Samir and Tony to take cover, something sliced Samir’s upper torso away from the rest of his body and beheaded Tony. Blood and bone and sinew splattered over the hood of the car and onto Andrew’s face and shirt. The shock sucked the air out of him. He couldn’t breathe or even scream. His brain still functioned. It told him to move, put one foot on front of the other, and go to Samir and Tony but his legs collapsed and he fell to the ground. How was it possible that the pieces of human flesh around him represented all that was left of his two friends?
Someone shook his arm. It was Nadia, sobbing, “Come away,” she said, “there’s nothing we can do.”
Andrew heard her voice but he still couldn’t move amidst the dismembered bodies. He was a physician, a healer, yet there was nothing he could do. A dozen Lebanese soldiers pushed the burned remain of cars to the side of the road. Others tended to the scores of wounded further back in the convoy.
Two soldiers brushed out the glass from their car. When they had finished, Andrew watched Sonia put Nadia into the back seat of the car and close the door. As she climbed into the driver’s seat, Sonia looked over her shoulder at Andrew. She saw him pick up Victor’s gun from the asphalt where it had fallen from Samir’s pocket. Suddenly she started the engine. Andrew dashed to the car and climbed in next to Nadia.
“What the fuck are you doing, Sonia?” he screamed.
“An officer just passed,” she explained. “He ordered everyone back in their cars. We’re about the leave.”
“Leave?” he shouted. “We haven’t buried our dead. We can’t just leave Samir and the others here.”
“We must, my carling,” whispered Nadia.
“Sonia took the walkie-talkie and spoke into it. “We’re ready when you are.”
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