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Snow, not bombs, falls on Baghdad

January 12, 2008|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — When I walked into the newsroom of our little Baghdad Bureau on Friday morning, I was greeted by something I had seen little of since I arrived a couple of weeks ago: huge smiles and an emotion that seemed a lot like joy.

"Guess what!" exclaimed one of the interpreters, Usama Redha. "It snowed this morning! It's never snowed here before!"

I yanked open the sliding glass door. It was bone-chillingly cold, but all I could see were wet streets and rooftops. To my eyes, the view was the same: ugly and depressing. No blankets of pure white snow. No falling flakes.

But oh, how little credit I gave the simple act of nature I had slept right through.

The guys in the office recounted their stories. Interpreter Saif Rasheed's mother woke him up to deliver the good news. Khalid, who cleans the rooms at our compound, said it was snowing on his way to work. "Dazzling," he said, so amazing that even Iraqi soldiers and police officers snapped photos with their cellphones.

Usama's friend called him at 7 a.m.: "Wake up! Wake up! Look to the sky. You will be astonished!" Usama, of course, became immediately fearful. After all, just the day before, the U.S. military dropped about 49,000 pounds of bombs on targets on the southern edge of Baghdad.

"Just go out and see," his friend told him.

He walked outside, past his 5-year-old son, who was perched on the windowsill, laughing excitedly. "I always read about it and saw it on TV," Usama said. "I wanted a piece of it to fall on me, just to feel it."

It never snows in Baghdad. No one can remember the last time. But Iraqis look for hope wherever they can find it. Our cook, Jameelah, told me it makes her optimistic about the future. The snow is good luck. Some residents even said it means peace is coming.

I asked Jameelah whether she believed that.

"Inshallah," she said. God willing.

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kimi.yoshino@latimes.com

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