“When I heard the explosion, I understood immediately that a bomb had gone off on my bus. Suicide bombings were happening regularly at the time,” says Linoy Zohar, in her low, soft voice. “As soon as I regained consciousness, I jumped out of a window and fell onto the ground below. I knew I had to get away fast because it was very likely that a second explosion, which terrorists used to kill the rescuers, would follow. Although I couldn’t feel my legs, I somehow managed to move away. Then I started to count my toes,” she says. “I’d lost a shoe,” she adds.
A Shattered Morning
On February 22, 2004, Linoy, slim and petite, then 16 years old, was on her way to Gymnasia Rehavia, Jerusalem’s first modern Jewish high school, considered one of the best public high schools. She boarded Egged bus number 14 in southern Jerusalem, like she did every morning, and moved towards her regular seat. “I put my bag on the seat, but then, for some strange reason, I decided to move further back,” recalls Linoy. The decision saved her life. “Later, I noticed that a young soldier had taken my place,” she adds. A Palestinian terrorist boarded the bus, probably in the Talpiot industrial zone, with an explosive device hidden in a backpack stuffed with metal scraps to maximize casualties. He blew himself up close to Liberty Bell Park, killing eight people and wounding about forty. The young soldier was among the dead.
After the explosion, surrounding traffic came to a standstill. “A woman called me over to sit in her car,” she recalls. “I could barely hear her; I knew something had happened to my hearing. Then I cried. It was the only time I cried that day,” she says. Linoy had left her school bag and phone on the bus. Since her parents are divorced and the only number she could remember was her home number, the woman called her home. “When my nine-year-old brother answered, the woman started yelling at him about the bombing,” Linoy says. “That wasn’t what I wanted her to do,” she adds wryly. Linoy’s brother called their mother. Once the ambulances started arriving, Linoy was transported to the hospital, where she remained alone, until her father was notified.
Linoy suffered shrapnel injuries to various parts of her body, a collapsed thigh, and burns to her face and hair. “On top of that, I could barely hear. I thought I’d gone deaf and began imagining living life as a deaf person. Later, I learned that both eardrums had been punctured and that I would eventually hear again,” says Linoy.
Laboring to Live a Normal Life
“Everyone thinks that these things happen to other people,” says Linoy. “When my world shook, I became the ‘other people.’ Suddenly, I realized that bombings can happen to anyone, anywhere. I wondered why I hadn’t seen how very vulnerable we are.”
Although it’s still hard for Linoy to walk long distances, her physical injuries have healed. Not so the effects of post-trauma. “The trauma of the experience will never pass; it has become part of me,” she says softly. “Terror victims can’t just put it all behind them and get back to living a normal life once they’re over their physical injuries,” she adds.
The effects of post-trauma seeped into daily life. “I was afraid that something was going to explode at any minute, perhaps it would be the television,” she says. “I became very suspicious. I was afraid to go out of the house alone. Obviously, I couldn’t get on a bus. Luckily, after the bombing, my school had organized a school bus for the mornings, but I had to deal with the forty-minute walk home.”