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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Salhoub bus crash victims’ commentary

Somebody once said that “To lose a child is to lose a piece of yourself.”

Last weekend, road accidents in Jordan claimed the lives of nine children, and twelve others.

Fifteen families shattered, so many, too many, precious pieces lost.

We are numbed and stunned; aching with loss particularly for the Khasawneh family: little Yehya, only eight years old…happiest when he was reading stories, drawing pictures and swimming; his twelve year old brother, Zeid, with whom he shared his toys; and their thirteen year old sister, Anoud, with whom the boys giggled and squabbled by turn.

We hurt no less for the other innocent children whose time with us ended too soon: Jarir Raif Shukri (16), Dania Imad Ali Al Rousan (14), Hamzeh Faleh Abu Sheih (18), Hamzeh Ahmed Farhan Al Kawasmeh (15), Mohammad Nasim Al Moumani (18), Nour Salameh Miqdad (13) – beloved sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, and cherished friends.

And we mourn for the mothers, the mother-to-be and her unborn child, fathers, grandparents, friends, neighbors, and colleagues who perished while enjoying a day out with friends and family:

Hamzeh Mohammad Fahmi Al Khatib (24), Iman Ibrahim Malkawi, expecting a baby later this year (24), Mohammad Ahmad Sarhan (42) from Egypt, Mohammad Mahmoud Zayed Abu Sarhan (42), Masoud Mahmoud Masoud Nazzal (67), Feryal Khaled Saeed Al Khasawneh (56), Mohammad Amin Al Karaan (28), Maryam Safi Ali Safi (60), Ali Aref Al Khawaldeh (28), Abd El Hadi Yousef Al Oduan (65), Mina Zeidan Al Kawasmeh (54), and Ola Ahmad Mohammad Al Bashir (31).

To the families of the victims, we offer our heartfelt thoughts and prayers. We cannot know your pain, but we stand by your side in these dark hours.

And to all Jordan’s children, and to one another, we must pledge to draw strength from our sorrow, and pay tribute to the lives that were lost by bettering the world they left behind.

Last year, there were 94,257 road accidents on Jordan’s roads -- 258 accidents every day. Those accidents killed 789 people -- more than 2 a day…5 children every week.

In a society that prides itself on the strength and value of the family, that cherishes life and believes that children are a gift from God, these statistics do not make sense.

For most of us, traveling on Jordan’s roads is unavoidable if we want to go to work, take our children to school, buy food for our families, worship, or visit friends. But, increasingly, getting into your car, flagging down a taxi, stepping onto a bus, even walking by the side of the road is a risk. It means taking your life in your hands, or putting your life in the hands of others.

We see drivers speeding, or driving aggressively, or failing to use rear-view mirrors and indicators. We see drivers smoking or chatting on the phone. We rarely see people wear seatbelts.

And just now, in winter, there is a greater risk of road accidents. The roads are wetter; snow and ice make roads slippery; and fog affects visibility. The forecast this week suggests that there will be more snow and rainfall. Must that be a forecast of tragedy as well?

Next time you get into a car, think about the three empty beds in the Khasawneh house…the lonely chairs at the table…the half-colored in pictures… the unfinished books… the unworn coats.

Think about what it would feel like to lose a piece of yourself…and feel incomplete for the rest of your life. Or what it would be like to carry the burden of guilt if you were responsible for shattering someone else’s life.

We all must drive more slowly, more carefully, more responsibly -- today…every day… every week.

Let us make Jordan’s roads a place where life’s journeys begin, not where they end.

Rania Al Abdullah
Salhoub bus crash victims commentary

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