In 2008, I had to go to Iraq for business. I stayed there for three weeks and felt safe most of the time, but there was one incident that left me a bit shaken.
On this particular day, I had just returned to Bagdad from Al Asad. When we arrived at Baghdad International Airport (formerly Saddam International Airport), security guards escorted us to a bus that was waiting to take us to headquarters. A couple of guys from our party decided to ride in the “hard car” that was supposed to escort us back to base. For some unknown reason, the escort left without us. A security guard told us to board the bus and instructed the driver start driving. The driver drove a few yards past the security check point then stopped abruptly.
“I will not leave until I have an escort,” he said. The security guard tried to assure him that everything would be okay, but the driver refused to move until an escort showed up. Keep in mind that we were in the “red zone” while this debate was occurring. Several cars and trucks passed by and I watched each vehicle for any erratic behavior. The guard finally radioed in for an escort and a black Hummer showed up a few minutes later. The passenger side of the vehicle was covered with bullet holes – not a very comforting sight.
With the escort secured, we proceeded down the road. A few miles ahead, I saw a truck veer on to our side of the one way street. Oncoming traffic swerved to avoid being run over by this maniac. The truck continued to barrel towards us, but the bus driver seemed unfazed. I, on the other hand, was clenching my seat. We turned down a side road and the driver wedged his truck between the bus and our escort. My heart raced as I wondered what he was up to. I turned towards the guard and shouted, “Aren’t you going to do something?” He told me to calm down because there was no danger. Our escort slowed down and the truck weaved into the next lane towards oncoming traffic again.
“What’s going on here?” I demanded. “Why isn’t anybody doing anything?”
“Relax,” the driver said. “That’s just the way people drove in Iraq.”
“Suicide bombers also drive that way,” I said. “How can you tell the difference?”
“We just know,” said the guard.
Maybe I was overreacting, but it was a harrowing experience – one that I will never forget.
Question: What was your most frightening experience?