- Slices of Life: Jazz Professor Chip McNeill throws himself into his work
- Slices of Life: Jessie’s first fight
- Slices of Life: The longings of … a beautiful boy
- Slices of Life: Former pastor now hand-crafting beautiful furniture
- Slices of Life: Bishop seeks life for his church despite bleakness of neighborhood
- Slices of Life: Still missing his wife of 36 years, man keeps himself occupied at Champaign laundromat
- Slices of Life: Iraqi woman relates tale of her ‘rebirth’ in America
- Slices of Life: After meeting on dance floor, Harrises waltzing through life
- Slices of Life: Entrepreneur has spent much of his adult life belying a label from his high school days
- Slices of Life: Danville woman adores her flock of feathered friends
- Slices of Life: A sacred fire: The last of a farming line, a father soldiers on
- Slices of Life: University of Illinois student grateful for his journey to belief
- Slices of Life: Dave’s Firearms is a place for camaraderie — and camouflage
- Slices of Life: Never give up: The constant message at Restoration Urban Ministries
- Slices of Life: Area families struggle to find life after a soldier’s death
- Slices of Life: Missing the music
- Slices of Life: Willie Summerville: “Somebody say ‘Amen'”
- Slices of Life: Longtime local rabbi remains forever grateful for ‘sparks of holiness’ during a dark time
By Zina Bhaia — So many lights!
I knew that America would be big, but as I looked out my Royal Jordanian Airline window at the sprawling nightscape of Chicago and the towering cityscape of its downtown, I thought, “Oh, my God, it is huge. And Lake Michigan, why do they call it a lake? It is like an ocean.” I had flown into Baghdad at night many times, and Baghdad was but a speck of light compared to this glaring city below me.
“What am I getting myself into?” I thought. “I will never find my way around.”
My unlikely journey to America had begun nearly a year earlier. As a 28-year-old woman working in the United Nations human rights office in the Green Zone and living with my father and mother in a Shia and Christian neighborhood in central Baghdad, I had seen too much in the four years since Saddam Hussein’s fall began: The terrible U.S. bombing; my looting neighbors stealing computer monitors, believing they were TV sets; people giving cookies and tea to the U.S. troops as the tanks bellowed past. Then came the car bombs; the bloody bodies in the streets; my Shia family being driven out of our mostly Sunni neighborhood and our house stripped bare of even its windows; the kidnappings for retaliation or terror or ransom, even my own beautiful, happy, spoiled 16-year-old brother – kidnapped and never seen again, breaking my parents’ hearts forever.
This story was written by a University of Illinois journalism student in Professor Walt Harrington’s Literary Feature Writing class taught in collaboration with The News-Gazette. Funding for the class, which was taught at the newspaper’s headquarters in downtown Champaign, came from the Marajen Stevick Foundation. The story was part of an occasional series titled “Slices of Life” that ran in the newspaper’s Sunday Living section. All the stories in the series are also collected in the book “Slices of Life.”