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Jeanette Khan Headshot

An Unexpected Blast

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I was flipping through the channels with the maids or baji's (literal translation: sister) as we say in Urdu. We were looking for an Indian movie to watch. Only two words caught my eye -- "blast Lahore." I grabbed the remote out of one of the maid's hand and flipped it back to the news channel. The full headline was, "Blast at Alhamra Cultural Complex in Lahore." Alhamra Cultural Complex was holding a World Performing Arts Festival with both local and foreign artists.

I asked the bajis where this place was in Lahore, but they didn't know. I ran and asked my grandmother where the complex was in Lahore. She said there were two -- one near Qaddafi Stadium and one on Mall Road. I told her about the blast and she said she had heard it herself. I wasn't sure we could hear it from our house, but apparently we could. I had heard a big boom ten to fifteen minutes earlier, but had thought it was thunder. It didn't register until later that the big boom was actually a blast.

Then, I ran upstairs and asked my aunt and uncle if they had heard the blast as well. They said they had, but it was a gas cylinder that had busted, not a bomb. I didn't believe it at first. My fear started to override my rational-mind, and I asked my cousin, "how can a gas cylinder burst?" Five minutes later, we heard another blast. My aunt said, "That doesn't sound like a gas cylinder burst." Her words scared me -- because how could a gas cylinder blast happen twice within a thirty minute period?

I ran back downstairs and turned the TV back on. I switched it to a different news channel that was showing live footage of the blast. How they got people and cameras there so quick I have no idea; it seemed much faster than in the states. I had no idea what they were saying, because my Urdu isn't perfect; all I could go on was the pictures. They showed footage of police officers going through an abandoned bag, the plaster that had fallen from the roof, and people standing around trying to comprehend what had just happened.

I called my father and told him I was scared. I've never heard a blast before. He understood how scary the situation was for me, having been born and raised in the United States. My dad was used to the bombs though, because he was born and raised in Pakistan. It dawned on me how secluded my life is in the U.S., how I grew up in a cocoon of safety.

After talking to my father, I tried to watch a movie. After about 30 minutes I started dozing off, but wanted to check the news once more before I fell asleep. I got online and looked at Dawn.com, one of the main Pakistani English-newspapers. It confirmed my fears -- the blasts were bombs, not gas cylinders. I turned the TV to the Dawn's news channel because it's the only Pakistani news channel in English. They said the blast was three bombs that had probably been detonated by remote control. The first bomb was at 10pm, the second at 10:15, and the third at 10:30, after the place had been closed and secured.

I felt I couldn't handle any more news, so I went to bed and just tried to think "happy thoughts."
When I woke up the next morning, I went into the living room and told my uncle, "It was three bombs." He told me not to worry... they were crackers, not bombs. "Crackers?" I asked. He explained they're made out of the same material as firecrackers. He said the people who put the bombs there did it to create panic, not to kill anyone. "Don't worry, you'll be okay," he said.
In Pakistan, although I feel safe most of the time, I always keep my eyes wide open and wits about me. I try not to go to crowded places and am always with a family member when I go out. Honestly and this may be a bit naïve, but I didn't expect to ever hear a bomb blast. I knew they happened in Pakistan, even sometimes in Lahore, but I never thought they would happen so close to home that I would be able to actually hear it.

When deciding to come here, I knew the situation was precarious and I would have to take extreme precautions. But I'm trying to adopt the attitude of most Pakistanis, who believe that you can't let bombs or blasts prevent you from living your life; if you do then you let the terrorists win. Nobody wants them to win.