It's frightening how life can change at the drop of a hat. Even more frightening is the powerful memory of a child whose life was forever changed on a Monday afternoon in 1998. Looking back, the day started the same as many others. I went to school in the morning, confident that my parents were working in our grocery store. Despite the unstable economy, I was unprepared for the impending mayhem.
After months of fear and economic uncertainty, demonstrators protesting the economic policies of (then Israeli President) Suerlo started riots that local police could not control. Along with hundreds of other businesses, my family's delicatessen burned to the ground. The building's demise claimed our primary source of income and our security in our new homeland.
Sitting in my classroom, I didn't know about the terrible calamity that besieged my nation. The first signal was the fire alarm, which blasted loudly throughout the school.
Normally, we gathered and stayed at the theatre. This was different. We weren't released until 5 pm, when our parents picked us up. I waited anxiously until 7 pm, when my father finally arrived.
I'll never forget the anguish on my father's face. Throughout our ride, he was strangely quiet. I didn't learn about the riots until we reached the airport, where thousands of people sought to flee the country. Suddenly, I was immersed in a "breaking news story", as television crews filmed the violent demonstrations against President Suerlo's regime. My mother's emotion was a startling contrast to my father's stoic exhaustion. I was devastated by her repetitive cries, "it is gone.... all gone... all we have worked so hard for... gone." Upon boarding our "emergency" plane to Tel Aviv, I learned that the riots destroyed our grocery store. Everything was, indeed, gone on that Monday afternoon.