by Asma Al Shandoudi
Third-Year Premedical Student
Oman Medical College
I did this interview with my friend. Her house had a fire, and her sister died in it. She is my age and lives in my area (Ibri, Oman). I preferred to speak with her rather than her mother because I felt it is hard for her mother to speak or remember such a hard thing. To know more about this fire, I asked her the following questions:
When did this accident happen?
This happened four years ago in October 2000.
Who was responsible for this fire?
My little brother was responsible for the accident because he was the one who lit the fire in the house. In fact, my mother had a responsibility also because she did not keep the lighter in a safe place.
Can you tell me more about how the fire started?
This was on the weekend when everyone was sleeping and preferring to get up late. However, my little brother who was five years old got up early at 6:00. He was the only one who was not sleeping at that time. He found the incense, coal and the tools we use to burn [the incense], and he also found the lighter in a small basket she [my mother] put on a shelf. He could reach the basket by using a chair. He carried it to the room where his two sisters were sleeping. The older one was seven years old, and the younger one was eight months old. He started to light the coal very close to the curtain. The fire burned the coal and then the curtain, which also burned. Then everything burned, including my eight-month-old sister.
Can you tell me more about how your sister got burned to death in that fire?
My brother ran away when he saw the fire, and my sister who was seven years old got up and felt afraid. Then, she started to shout and went immediately to my room and awakened me. I went immediately to my mother’s room and awakened her, but I did not remember my infant sister, who was in the burning room. When my mother got up, she ran immediately to the infant’s room, but the fire was so bad that we could not enter the room. All that I could do with my sisters was to prevent my mother from entering the burning room till my neighbor reached the house. He carried her out of the house. All the time, I knew that my sister would die not only because of the fire but also because of the smoke which was very thick and because it might prevent her from breathing.
What about the fire fighters? Were they able to help your sister?
No, they reached our home very late. I mean after the fire burned not only the room where the infant was but also after it had spread to the entire home. When they extinguished the fire, everything was over. As I said, the smoke was enough to asphyxiate her.
Where did you find your little brother, and what you did do with him?
We found him hidden in my maternal aunt’s house, which is also close to us. He was crying and was in bad shape. He was thinking that we might kill him. My father was so wise. He told us that, if we lost one sister, we do not want to lose my little brother also. Then, my father started to calm the child and make him understand that we would not want to hurt or harm him. That is so bad when you can see a child blaming himself and evaluating how big a disaster he put his family in. Simply, he was suffering inside himself, and I really respect my father’s role in calming him and making him get over that painful experience, which was hard for all of us.
I know that day was so hard for you. However, can you tell me what the hardest thing on that day was?
There were many hard things at that time, but for me the hardest thing was when the firefighter came out and he was carrying my sister. We could not look at her or imagine that this is my sister. The other thing was when I was preventing my mother from entering the burning room. I was really afraid that I might lose her too as I had lost my sister. Also, it was hard for me when I saw my father when he came from his workplace. His work is far from my home. I could see the pain in his face. He was suffering inside his heart even though he was trying not to show us that. It was really painful for my parents to lose one of their children.
In the end, do you have any advice to people from a person who has had a painful experience?
Yes, I advise all people to be careful and do not trust what children might do. I cannot blame them because they want to know everything and try everything that adults do, so we have to blame ourselves about a child’s actions, and we should make our houses safe and keep dangerous things away out of their reach.
I finished my interview with my friend, and I felt how painful it was for her to speak and remember that day. I hope every one benefits from her experience and avoids things like this happening in the future.