“Take a deep breath” – the terrorist attack that changed my life

On July 30, 2002, my life changed when I witnessed a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem. Actually, ‘witnessed’ isn’t the best word to describe what happened that day. Read on:

 

A JERUSALEM MEDIC TELLS HIS TALE–BEHIND THE RHETORIC

By Marty Friedlander, JERUSALEM

On Tuesday I was working at the Ha’aretz office downtown. Left around
12:00 on foot and headed to Mea She’arim, where I rendezvoused with my
wife Rena and my in-laws. Went into my favorite tefillin shop (Gershon
Henoch Cohen) with my father-in-law, where he bought a new pair of
tefillin, a talit and a few mezuzas.

Back out to the car, Rena driving. At the end of Mea Shearim
Street she made the right at Nevi’im, went up the street and made the
left toward the Russian Compound. I got out at the corner of Helena
Hamalka (a long block beyond where I wanted to get out, which is
Havatzelet). It was a litttle after 1:00p.m I straightaway decided to
go for a felafel at Moti’s on Hanevi’im, 100 meters away. I headed
back and within 15 seconds after leaving the family I heard the bomb
go off. Big boom, but not overpowering.

I turned and saw the smoke coming out of the falafel place. No other
sounds at all.

First thing I did was call Rena to say that I was okay, that it was a
bomb, and that I was going back there. I then trotted over. There were
two cops in front, fanning out to the sides to stop traffic. There was
an arm lying by the door. No one was there, no one else was going in.
I sort of loitered around in front for about ten seconds, partly
hoping that a medical team would arrive and relieved me of my burden,
but there was no one else. I am a medic, and have trained all my life
for this kind of episode. Finally I realized it had to be me. In the
meantime, I think someone must have come out from the back room of the
falafel place and said that there was only one patzua (casualty). I
went in and saw him lying on the floor, his head toward the door, in
front of the counter where the customers usually stand.

He had no legs. I leaned down and looked at him for a second or two.
His eyes were wide open, focused on me. At first I wasn’t sure if it
was a man or woman; he was wearing a dark, flowery kind of shirt. But
I put my hand on his chest to help check for breathing, and realized
it was a man. He was breathing. That took care of A and B (airway and
breathing). Then comes C – circulation. I ran outside and called out
for a belt. A cop pulled his belt off and gave it to me – by now there
were more people outside. I went back in and took a better look and
realized there was absolutely nothing that I could apply the chosem
orakim (arterial torniquet) to. He had no legs left.

It was pointless to apply the het”ayin to his arm (at the elbow) when
he was clearly bleeding out through much larger arteries. There was
nothing more I could do. I said to him – “tinshom amok” – breathe
deep. His eyes were still focused. I decided to help out with his
breathing, and give mouth to mouth. I closed his nostrils with two
fingers and gave one breath, which – exactly like you do in training
on Resusci-Annie the doll – didn’t work because I neglected to move
the chin up and open up the airway. I corrected the position and
started mouth to mouth. Just like the book says – with five seconds
from one to the next. I noticed he had this little button-sized beard
under his chin. After seven or eight breaths, maybe 45 seconds into
the whole thing, I looked up. His eyes were now rolled up to the top
of his head, and I could only see the whites of his eyes.

I saw someone standing in the doorway watching the whole thing. He was
nodding his head from side to side. He looked for some reason very
authoritative to me. Maybe it was the fact that he wasn’t jumping up
and down, not panicked at all. Like he’s seen these sort of things
before. I don’t know what it was, but I stopped the CPR. Rationally I
knew my patzua was not going to make it, and that my little artifical
respiration was not even needed.

After all, he was breathing on his own. I got up and walked outside. I
assume that he died a few seconds later.

By this time, there were lots of police. I noticed Mickey Levy, the
police commander for Jerusalem. He had a megaphone and was shouting
out – open up the road toward Har Hatzofim (Hadassah Mt. Scopus). He
said something about ambulances, I walked over and told him ambulance,
in the singular. I hadn’t seen any other wounded. I was shunted across
the street by the police, who were fanning out to look for more bombs.
I was behind a barrier leading to a private driveway where some cars
were parked, and a demolitions guy was talking to some fellow who
identified his car, and said that his colleagues at work could come
down and identify  their cars. The cop wrote something with a wax
pencil on the windshield.

An Ethiopian guy of about 20 ran up and pleaded with a cop to let him
go in. He said his brother worked with Moti. I asked him what his
brother looked like. He said that he looks like an Ethiopian (!) I
assured him that his brother was okay, that there was only one patzua
and that he was definitely not Ethiopian.

It was around now that I finally realized that my patzua was the
terrorist.
One of the people around me must have said something, and then it
dawned on me. I got a couple of phone calls. One from my mother, who
was with my father at Bikur Holim Hospital, a few blocks away. She
wanted to know if I was okay. She also asked if I knew where my sister
Janis was. I assured her that Janis was okay. (by process of
elimination!)

I got another call from my friend Amy, at work. I told her what had
happened.

I think at this point I nearly threw up. I realized that I had to get
the police to test this guy for diseases. So about five minutes after
leaving the felafel place, I went down through this alley and through
a building on Havatzelet and went back to my office, a couple of
minutes away. First thing I did was scrub my hands (I had noticed some
blood on my thumb) and face with soap. And again, soaping up my lips,
inside and out. People at work sat me down and gave me water to drink.
I was still calm. In fact, the entire time I had remained very calm
and rational. My entire life as a medic (23 years) I’ve always
wondered how I would react when this sort of thing would happen. Would
I freak? Would I fold? And today I did everything I was supposed to
do.

I called Rena, told her exactly what I’d done. I then called the
police, because I wanted them to do tests on the terrorist to see if
he had anything I needed to worry about. I got the number of the chief
medical officer at national police headquarters and spoke to someone
there. A few minutes later a guy named Zvika called me back. He was
the chief medic for the Jerusalem district. He said he would get the
ball rolling. From what he said, I realized for certain that my patzua
was the terrorist and that he was dead. I asked him what else I should
be doing, and he suggested getting immunizations for Hepatitis A and
B, and tetanus.

I was pretty calm. I emailed myself some unfinished work so I could
work on it later at home, but by now I was slowing down, and sending a
simple email took over five minutes. I then walked over to Bikur
Holim, visited with my parents (my father was being released that day,
and I had planned to drive them home). My father had been suggesting
that my mother walk over to the good boreka place on Haneviim, which
is two doors away from the falafel place, when the bomb blew. I told
them what had happened to me.

I then walked over to where I’d parked the car, near Ethiopia Street,
drove to Kupat Holim, saw a doctor, asked for the vaccines, went down
to the pharmacy to buy them, back up to the nurses room to get them
injected. It was now 3:00, two hours after the whole thing began. I
asked one of the nurses to check my BP and pulse. Blood pressure was
high – 135 over 95, I usually run 110 over 75. I was actually pleased
to see that this was affecting me.

That’s it. I drove home. Rena hugged me – but did not kiss me on the
lips. I talked a lot.

Zvika had informed the guys on the investigation about me, and a
detective called and set up an appointment for Wednesday morning for
me to give my testimony. I went and spoke to an Udi, who’d been there
since 5 am. I am not a big fan of cops, but these guys are amazing.
They work so hard.

Oh, and Zvika called me back on Tuesday afternoon. The AIDS test was
negative. This time, Rena did kiss me when I got home from work.

Since all this happened, I have been reviewing the whole thing over
and over. It’s got so many elements to it – the fact that we probably
drove right past the terrorist on Haneviim; that I was 30 seconds away
from walking in to the shop for a felafel; that I never had to make
the call on whether to treat a terrorist bomber because I never
realized that’s what he was; that I was carrying a gun, and would have
shot him dead if¬† I’d known what he was about to do, but 20 seconds
later was trying to save the life of a human being; that I may have
given my enemy a few extra seconds of life in which to suffer; that he
died hearing a Jew telling him to breathe deeply, and trying to save
his life. There’s a lot to digest.

But its 6:22 am, and I am going to the 6:30 minyan over on Haportzim,
where I plan to bench hagomel, and will also bring a bottle of Scotch
to make a l’chaim.

Just another day in the life of,

Marty Friedlander

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