The American School of Doha Staff and Students remember the victims of the Villagio Fire last year
Where were you when Kennedy was shot? When the first plane hit? When Columbine School was under attack? We all remember that moment when tragedy struck, when we turned on the news and sat in shock at the terror that was unfolding before us. Horrible, tragic events that have shaped history, changed lives and brought strangers together bound by grief. A year ago today an unspeakable tragedy unfolded in Doha, a local mall caught on fire and a nightmare with in our community began. The authorities and news groups in Doha have called it a perfect storm of events, the police and fire department were not equipped to handle the situation, the mall did not have proper fire exits or floor plans and there was not enough communication to realize that there were still people trapped in the building.
I was there when the fire broke out, there was no panic or evacuation and many of the staff were still in the shops not knowing exactly what to do. As I walked out of one of the stores looking for the cause of the constant alarm I saw huge amounts of smoke filling the corridors. I headed straight to the nearest exit and told anyone I saw along the way to get out as soon as possible. When I reached the car park the amount of smoke that was coming out of the mall was shocking. There were crowds of people gathered watching, taking pictures, and video, I honestly don’t think that anyone could have imagined how that day would end. The news of the fire started spreading quickly, the media here is very tight lipped so Twitter and Facebook soon became flooded with information, some of it true and some not. The entire community sat waiting to hear the truth from the government almost 7 hours after the fire had broken out. Nineteen dear souls lost their lives that day, 13 of them being children who were trapped in the nursery.
That night I sat with my babies in my arms, thanking God that I was able to hold them and kiss them goodnight today and all the days after. I cried for the mothers and fathers who were not as lucky as me and made a promise to myself as we all do in these situations to live each day to the fullest. The whole city was devastated by this tragedy and the support and kindness that rose up around the grieving families was overwhelming. Even though Doha is a city made up of many cultures, religions and customs people came together as one all mourning for the great loss that the community had endured.
Today marks the one year anniversary of this horrible fire. I am not sure that the country has been able to make the necessary changes to ensure that this will never happen again but I am hoping that they are on the road to doing so. We as parents in this city have become more vigilant, we are asking more questions and are a bit more demanding on receiving the answers. Today we pray for the families that lost their Mothers, Sisters, Fathers, Brothers, Sons and Daughters. Today we remember not only the horror of that day, but the strength that this community has shown in the past year. Today I will hug the muppets a little bit harder, hold them a bit longer before they go to sleep and remember to be thankful that I am able to have these precious moments with my family.
A few months ago we took the three muppets to their first pantomime, at the end of the performance the middle muppet told me that he wanted to do that. He wanted to be in the stage singing and dancing, he thought it looked like so much fun! He is just like his Mummy! I always loved being on stage and performing, it would have never been anything that I would have tried to pursue professionally but it was one of my favourite places to be.
The middle muppet has been preparing for his end of year concert for a few weeks now. He wouldn’t tell me anything about it because he wanted it to be a surprise but he did tell me that he was going to be a sheep. On Sunday he came home from school and while he was eating his snack he asked me if he could tell me about his favourite part of the day. “I got to go on the big stage today Mummy, with no one in the audience and practice with the lights and microphones! It was so cool!” he rambled on excitedly about the performance and insisted that I pick the youngest muppet up from nursery early so that he could watch the show as well.
Today was his big day, this morning as I brushed the middle muppets hair he said to me “Mummy don’t be surprised if I look really sad on stage ok, I am a sad, sad sheep because I am lost. I am not really sad I am just acting, but I am really good so I don’t want you to think that I am really sad to be on stage. I am really happy!” The whole family attended the performance this morning and the middle muppet was wonderful! His sad sheep was very convincing and the other muppets and his father and I enjoyed the whole show.
I am glad that he enjoys performing, we may have a little actor in our midst…
The boys have one game that they really love to play with their Dad, it is a game that only Dad plays because mum doesn’t wrestle or play this game in fear that I will get hurt! One afternoon when it was probably -30 out in Canada the game “Blanket Monster” was created! It was too cold to go anywhere and entertaining a 3 year old and a 20 month old was alway a challenge.
Dave would lay on the floor in our basement while the oldest muppet jumped all over him and the middle muppet tried to copy him. The youngest muppet was unable to join in on this game yet but would watch happily from the jolly jumper laughing at his crazy brothers! Every so often Dave would pop out of the blanket and scare both of them and grab the slowest one (usually the middle guy) and pull him under the blanket. The middle guy would scream and cry and loose his fragile little mind (he really hated that part) finally daddy would let him go and five minutes later he would be begging for more. He still screams like a crazy person when they play today!
Everyday Dave is home after school the boys cry out, “blanket monster time!!” The game has moved to the bed (for dad’s safety) and now includes daddy throwing and flipping them on the bed! The game normally ends with daddy getting hurt and the muppets wanting more!!
I am not so sure any of them will ever be too big to play “Blanket Monster”
The first year we went back to Canada we sat in my in laws living room at 4:00 o’clock in the morning like zombies while the three muppets played in the basement. The jet lag was horrible and I was sick with a horrible cold, Dave decided that the only way we were going to make it through the morning was with coffee… and not just any coffee but Tim Hortons coffee. He drove to the 24 hour drive thru that we had been deprived of for a whole year and brought back the liquid gold! That coffee hit the spot that morning it tasted like home and made the 11 degrees and rain more bearable The muppets gobbled up the bagels and Timbits and I am sure they hoped that this was going to become a habit for the rest of the summer.
Last week after a year of rumours that a Tim Hortons was going to be opening here in Doha the day finally arrived. We went for lunch just Dave and I and had a sandwich and the chilli and it tasted the same… it was a taste of home. I stopped there this morning for a coffee with some friends and picked up a pack of Timbits for the muppets. They were so excited when they got home from school and almost dove right in to the box.
The count down is on here in Doha it is 29 days and counting until we land in Canada. Today we got to have a little treat, some comfort food and a little taste of home.
The oldest muppet brings home a new book every day from school that he has to read. Yesterday he brought home a book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Mo Williams is a favourite author of all the muppets especially the middle guy so I was asked a number of times in the 24 hours we had the book to read it. The youngest muppet loves this book, with in the first few pages the bus driver asks the reader to watch his bus and he tells the reader please don’t let the pigeon drive the bus.
Enter the Pigeon who’s first question is Can I drive the bus? The youngest muppet says yes to the Pigeon! I explain to the smallest muppet that the bus driver told him that the Pigeon wasn’t allowed to drive the bus. He looks at the pigeon disappointed “Why Mama?” he asks, “Why can’t the Pigeon drive the bus? He really wants to, and I think he would be good at driving the bus” I explained that the bus driver didn’t want him to drive the bus, that maybe it wasn’t very safe since the pigeon didn’t have thumbs and he couldn’t reach the breaks or the gas peddle for that matter.
The youngest muppet was quiet for the rest of the story and then I left him on the couch with the book, I could hear him from the kitchen reading to himself. He was telling the pigeon that it was ok, he could drive the bus. I am pretty sure that the smallest muppet sympathizes with the pigeon since he is more often than not told that he can not do something. He came in to the kitchen complaining that the pigeon never gets to do anything and that it really wan’t fair that he couldn’t drive the bus! I picked him up and gave him a hug and said that maybe when the pigeon was a bit bigger the bus driver would let him have a turn driving the bus. Until then he would just have to be happy going on a bus ride.
The littlest muppet was still not very happy with this answer but went on with his day, although I am sure that if he and the pigeon had a chance they would take over the world and show us all!