Today marks the fifth anniversary of the bombing where 22 UN workers were killed in the fatal bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad. One of them was a Filipina who was facially disfigured, initially declared dead but was barely alive when recovered from the rubble. Another was the head of the UN in Baghdad, Sergio de Mello. He had just replaced my former boss, Francis Dubois, as head and had Francis left two weeks later, it would have been him we were commemorating.
It's difficult to say when death will come knocking at your door. It's difficult to say in what manner you'll die. No matter how many times it's said, it's still best to live life as if everyday was your last.
I cherised many good memories in that building. I was telling my colleague that we used to play ping-pong every afternoon after work. My favorite player was Saad al-Asali. He was doing computational linguistics and I used to take linguistics and we could exchange our views on that while hitting away on the ball. There was a sort of camaraderie among the UN workers there and I'm sure like in every mission because a lot of us were far from our homes. Saad is Iraqi and he even came over to my house to play ping pong. I was very saddened to find out that he was badly hurt during the bombing. I met him in 2006 during the second anniversary and I met his family. He wasn't the same. He still had the same smile but he was hurting all over as the pieces of glass that shattered his body left him physically scarred.
It's sad to remember and it's even worse to see that Baghdad now lies in ruins. I can only blame the invasion because this may have never happened otherwise. I hope that Baghdad will soon rise again from the ashes as it always does in the centuries of attempted colonization from the Kings of Babylon to the current occupying Power. I hope the UN will play a real role in peace and not back out in the face of fear and danger. After all, it's there to accomplish world peace.