Monday morning, my inner night owl awakens with a grudge, as I gradually become aware of a din in the hall. I hear the word “explosion”, remembering with a start the Coca Cola I forgot in the freezer overnight. Rolling out of bed and slinking from my room to clean up the mess, I overhear a most alarming exchange between the receptionist and a host. Retreating, I go online to find a suicide bomber attacked the metro one-half mile from our hotel twenty minutes ago; at least fourteen people at our station are dead, and scores more injured. I grieve the senseless loss of life in a tragedy that feels more real by its proximity, knowing leaving that station was almost the last thing I did Sunday night. Suddenly, I panic, realizing Faith isn’t here. She planned to come early for gift distribution before our trek to Red Square. I can’t find my phone, and I’m frantic to call her, now. My terror, real, is short-lived, as I bolt out my door to find her arriving. I hug her tightly, overjoyed she’s alright. Delayed visiting with family on Skype, she left her flat later than intended. Arriving at our station to find mind-numbing carnage, she’d missed the explosion by fifteen minutes. The scene left her shaken, and quick to obey the barked command, “Leave the station now!” Outside, ambulances queued to transport the injured, as helicopters hovered overhead.
While the devastation sinks our plans, we don’t burden the kids with the news. After breakfast, Faith shepherds them aside, where she reads from a treatise on Moscow’s history. Meanwhile, the hosts and I organize piles of clothes, toys, school supplies, and treats. The tendency is to spoil orphans, and each of us is caught red-handed. Based on my own kids’ experiences, I have cynically warned families to avoid presents with sentimental value. Older children might retain some items, but younger children, or those at less-endowed orphanages, will likely keep nothing, the gifts becoming communal property, at best.
It’s always been by faith. Nothing’s changing now.