- Predo, get up. Let's go to the basement. They've started.
By "they" she meant the Croatian army, and by "started" she meant that they stated shelling our town after a few months of ceasefire. But, since we all knew quite well who "they" were and what they might "start," detailed explanations were unnecessary.
We packed a bag of food, a bag of most necessary clothing, we took all the cash we had in the house (which wasn't much) and went to the basement of a nearby unfinished hotel. The basement was two thirds in the ground, and it had concrete walls and three stories of walls above it--it was the best shelter in our neighborhood. Pretty much all our neighbors were there already.
I, being I, and being sixteen, tried to make light of the situation by teasing my mother for being scared.
- Oh, c'mon mom, like it's our first time. We are well trained basement dwellers, well accustomed to dark and damp conditions. Maybe we should start a mushroom business or something like that.
She would just smile and pretend she was enjoying my jokes. But, we both knew that this time it was different. The shelling was frequent and regular, and we could hear it coming from all sides. This time, it was all or nothing.
We teenagers would climb up between the periods of shelling to look at the damage. Two of my friends' houses were already missing their roofs. Later I learned that one of them was still in the house when the shell exploded. He lost all his teeth.
At about 11 am, a man that we knew came with a truck full of people fleeing the fighting in the suburbs of our town. The man was pale and scared.
- Run, they've entered the city and they are cutting people's throats, he said.
Many of our neighbours climbed his truck.
- I have to go home. All our photos are there, my mother said nervously.
- Fuck photos! You don't want to die for photos.
This was the first time I ever swore in front of my mother. I was scared I would lose her. I lost my brother three years before that; I wanted to keep others around me alive at any cost.
She didn't go home. We left our town about half an hour after that, and we never came back. We do take a lot of photos now though and keep them stored electronically on portable devices.