Jeff Kaliner teaches a homeland security class at the Clark County Skills Center in Vancouver, WA. His students wrote most of this post.
Letters From Aleppo
“I am constantly thinking about how I am going to die. I’m not really scared but I feel nervous as if when I die I won’t have contributed enough to the cause.”
These words were written by a student in my high school homeland security class. The assignment was to step into the shoes of a child living in Aleppo and write a letter to a pen pal, relative or friend in the United States. Specifically, I asked the students to describe what they saw, heard and felt.
After a few weeks of studying the conflict, I was curious how teenagers from southwest Washington State comprehend the events taking place in Aleppo. In other words, how might twenty young people living in the United States make sense of over 10,000 dead children in Syria?
A sampling of the responses appear below (and in subsequent posts).
Dear Kelsie and Becca,
How are you doing? I hear that fall has finally hit the states. Is it cold there now?
It’s getting rough over here in Aleppo. Yesterday a missile landed across the road from us. It didn’t go off right away, but when it did it destroyed most of the houses on that side plus part of our upstairs…where Kyle sleeps. Thank God he wasn’t there at the time. He was busy helping Dad deliver new ammunition to some of the other rebel fighters.
They shut school down a while ago. In a way I’m so glad they did, it was getting really difficult going there in peace. A lot of the teens there are children of regime fighters and since my dad (as you know) is a rebel fighter, they really don’t like me or my siblings. I would walk the halls in fear of my life!
Do you have to worry about that in the United States? I really wish we were there. But I am glad to being doing my part to help the rebel fighters. Kyle is fourteen now and he is very strong and has a good shot, so they asked him to help out. Mom was really hesitant about letting him go with the men. We worry that he is now a target for ISIS.
Jessica and Kendra are afraid to venture far from the house. I don’t think they will ever get used to the missiles and the guns firing constantly. I don’t know if I will. At night sometimes they will crawl into my bed. I used to send them back to their room. But now I let them stay with me. I tell them stories and try to help them remember the way things used to be. Jessica is only nine and Kendra is only seven, but the way they talk and the look they get in their eyes sometimes shows age beyond their years.
They rarely talk like they used to. So whenever Jessica brings up her love of chickens or a bird she found, or when Kendra talks about candy and The Hobbit movies, we rejoice inside and encourage them to keep talking.
The other day Jennesa and I took the girls outside to explore a bit and we found a kitten. You should’ve been there to hear their squeals of joy. They laughed and jumped up and down for ages. I had tears in my eyes, it made me so happy to see them happy. Surprisingly Mom let us keep it. I guess she missed having the cats and it helps occupy the girls when we are trapped inside.
Many a time I wish that we were far away from here. Away from the fighting, away from the dust and constant fear. But I am glad that we are here to help the people, to be doing our part. ISIS and Assad must fall. I dream, as I know we all do, of better days. Where the air will be clean of debris from the blown up buildings, where my siblings can play in the streets without fear of a sniper or a sudden attack. I have hope. That day will come soon. With much love
I wish I could be where you are, it’s getting really bad here.
It’s louder than usual, more bombs are going off now and more of the kids around town have gone missing. At first we started looking for them but many of us have given up.
Now our parents keep us in at night to avoid being taken or getting lost. That means we really don’t go out much anymore.
How are you? What are things like in America?
Greetings from Syria! I am a 19 year old girl who lives in Aleppo. I help my mother take care of the rest of my family which consists of an older brother and two little brothers. My father is fighting with revolutionaries against Assad’s Regime.
My town is constantly being hit with gunfire, rockets, and shelling. Being out on the streets is too dangerous so we stay inside most of the time. When there is a break in the fighting I take my little brothers to the balcony of our house where I teach them their alphabet and numbers. (They’re ages 5 and 3.)
My older brother helps my father with making bombs to use against Assad’s Regime.
When a family member leaves the house there is a possibility of them not returning. So we treat each day as though it might be our last. I am not afraid of losing my family for I know that when I do lose them I will see them again with God and that they will have died a martyr’s death.
What is it like over in America???
Is there any fighting where you live??
Will be awaiting your letter.