caught in the crossfire

Terrorism had arrived in our town, at our doorstep. It was Sabbath morning, October 18, 2002, and we were awakened to a bomb. It was so close we could see the foggy smoke rise up towards the morning sky, we could hear the glass windows rattle.

A quarter-mile from the hospital and a few yards from the ADRA office, Maruti, a single mother, sat against a brick wall, selling vegetables. This was the spot she staked out every morning. Her meager sales was all the sustenance she had since her alcoholic, abusive husband had left her. Around her was the usual bustle of people shopping, stray dogs rummaging through trash, traffic squeezing by ducks and chickens. Just as nonchalant as its surroundings, a chicken hopped onto a plastic bag carelessly strewn by the roadside. The bag held a bomb. And in just seconds, the mother was dead, leaving three girls orphaned at ages 4, 6 and 11.

The girls’ uncle Prakash worked at our hospital as a security guard. But with two children of his own and the only earning member of his family, Prakash could not take in the girls.  So the following day the hospital launched an aggressive search to find a home for the children. Ideally we didn’t want them separated. Coming from an alcoholic home and having lost their mother, they desperately needed to be together.

We called Emmanuel Orphanage in Dhuikhel, the next town east of us. They had one vacancy and they only took in true orphans. The girls, unfortunately, did not qualify since they technically had a father. We did the only thing we could—we prayed. Just a couple of hours later, they called saying they’d make an exception and take all three girls if we could find sponsors for them. Another couple of hours and a few phone calls later, A few more hours and a few phone calls later the St. Clair family in Michigan agreed  to cover the cost of the girls at the orphanage. So, after the funeral rites on the 13th day following the death of their mother, Sumitra, Sushila, and Shreejana moved into Emmanuel’s.

Finding a home for the sisters in a country where orphans far outnumber orphanages was simply an answer to our prayers. It could have been any of us that Sabbath morning. We walked by the same spot every day, often stepping on plastic bags and trash.

The first three pictures were taken the week their mother was killed; the second, a year later; last four years later.

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