July 31, 2014 -- Louisville, KY, -- Janan Alnasrawi, 33, right, recalls the fateful night in June 2011 when their home in Badgad, Iraq was bombed and destroyed. Her daughters, from left, Ghasaq Sabri, 9, and Noorulzahra Sabri, 7, listen. Ghasaq was injured on her leg and still requires surgical treatment. In the bombing Janan's sister died and many family members were injured.The family fled to Turkey to seek asylum and were accepted to go to Louisville, Ky. in May 2013. Since then they have received support from Catholic Charities and the Survivors of Torture Recovery Center (STRC) of University of Louisville. A clinical social worker with STRC meets with them several times a week to help them adjust to life in the US. The family said they feel welcomed and well taken care of by the people of Louisville, but are worried for their relatives who remained back in Iraq. -- Photo by Nina N. Greipel, Freelance ORG XMIT: NG 131436 Torture survivor 7/31/2014 [Via MerlinFTP Drop] / Nina N. Greipel for USA TODAY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- It was especially dark the night before the bombing â?? so dark that Jinan Alnasrawi recalls her sister Raghad mentioned the darkness of death.
And it was hot, even for the Iraqi desert. That's why they gathered with their children in the front room of her apartment, the only one with air conditioning, unknowingly placing themselves in the path of destruction.
Looking back -- now that she and her family are safe in an apartment in Louisville, Ky. -- there were signs of danger. Tensions had been simmering between Sunnis and Shi'ites in the region. An al-Qaeda militant had called Jinan's husband Ali Sabah, who served in the Iraqi military, threatening to kill him and his Shi'ite family.
But he says through an interpreter, "I didn't believe it. I didn't take them seriously."
So that June evening in 2011 he left to go on duty in Falujah, like usual, while Jinan stayed with their four daughters.
After shopping and chatting until 2 a.m., Jinan and Raghad went to sleep next to their children and other relatives in the front room. About two hours later, the crash of a wall jolted Jinan awake and sent bricks flying onto the blankets and bedrolls.
She could barely see, the air was so thick with dust. She had no idea what was happening and worried she might be the only one left alive.
But after an achingly difficult silence, she heard voices; first, a daughter calling out for her, then her mother -- "Jinan, where are you?" â?? then neighbors.
Spotting her eldest daughter, Ghadeer, underneath the fallen wall, she screamed, "My daughters! Save my daughters!"
And rescuers did, one by one.
But Jinan's relief came with a deep fear: "Where is Raghad? Where is my sister?"
Eventually rescuers brought Raghad to a garden where Jinan lay, covering her with a blanket as if she was dead.
"When I saw her covered, I even forgot about my daughters," Jinan says. "I started losing consciousness."
Then came a fleeting spark of hope. In the back of a pickup truck, she lifted her sister's head into her lap, held her warm hand, and felt a squeeze.
"I felt she can hear me," Jinan says. "I was praying all the time."
At the hospital, she saw her children behind bed-curtains being treated. Two had serious injuries. Ghadeer lost half her arm and had to have her spleen removed. Her younger sister Ghasaq had leg injuries and window glass embedded in her skin.
But they would live.
Raghad's head injuries proved too grave. The 21-year-old mother of three died on the sixth day after the explosion.
Before she was buried, Jinan placed a light in her coffin, hoping to ward off the darkness she had always feared.
Read the original story: The night the blast obliterated their lives