| This is the 145th story of Our Life Logs |
Though I had grown up in a home filled with violence and threats, I still believed that people in general were more good than bad, and most governments were honest and progressive. I was very wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the mayhem that ensued when I tried to come home from the Middle East.
I was born in 1961 in Santa Fe, New Mexico but moved around many times growing up. I had a rough childhood full of abuse and neglect that damaged me for life. I found myself picking terrible people to be around because it was all I knew. Despite the wickedness of my father, I left my toxic home behind and went to college in Virginia. When I was 19, I met a guy at school who I thought would bring mostly good to my life. His name was Ali. He was tall, dark, very handsome, and from the country of Lebanon. He had come to the US to study. Well, we dove headfirst into romance and got married in 1982. He was my first husband and first serious love.
Ali and I shuffled around to various dingy apartments in Virginia, trying to build a future with the little money we had. This was difficult because Ali had a hard time finding a job. He tried to start up many businesses, but each ultimately ended in failure. For a long time, I was the main breadwinner, which made my getting pregnant and having our son in 1984 even more stressful. Still, we tried to make our marriage work, but we fought about money constantly. Our great joy was through our boy, and once he was born we moved into a beat-up house we could afford.
With Ali’s family overseas, he could only speak with them in the middle of the night when it was daytime in Lebanon. One night in 1990, my husband got a phone call that devastated him. His father had just died. Ali had not been able to say goodbye. Even more, his father never had the chance to meet our oldest son who was five years old by that point.
We decided to go to Lebanon to visit his family to offer comfort through shared grief and have them meet our son.
But there was one, big obstacle. It was just a few years after the Beirut Marine Barracks bombings. Lebanon was not a country where Americans were wanted—or even allowed to go unless it was an absolute necessity. If that wasn’t enough to try to scare me, I also found out that the Beirut airport wasn’t even open. But I didn’t want my five-year-old to be alone in a foreign country knowing no one except his father. There was no way that was going to happen. My son and I would have to fly in and out through Damascus and then drive into to Lebanon to get to Ali’s family home.
At 29, I was positive I would be aware if there was anything at all that would cause harm to me or my family. The civil war in Lebanon was over and Syria was a progressively growing country. I had learned this in my political science courses in college and felt it to be true—but I was very, very wrong.
Everything went smoothly with arriving then driving to Ali’s family home. I did notice the gunned checkpoints we had to go through at the airport, but again, I assured myself that there was no reason for worry. I had obtained all the correct traveling documentation with both passports and visas for us. With my then-husband there and his loving family embracing my son and me, I felt safe.
The day I was leaving Damascus with my son I made it through all the gunned checkpoints in the airport until the very last one. When I handed a Syrian soldier my passport and visa for my son and me, the look he gave me was so full of hate that I almost gasped. I kept my head down, gripping my son tightly. As the soldier silently studied the documents in his hand, I kept telling myself it was because he was having trouble understanding the words on the visa. Just as I lifted my head to speak, I met his eyes for the second time. In that moment I knew things were about to go badly.
The soldier told me that I was being detained because my visa had expired (it hadn’t), and my son would be given to his father. I started crying as soon as he started yelling which created more chaos and confusion around us. I felt sick to my stomach and had no idea how it had all come to this. At least not then.
Ali waited in the lobby, unaware of what was happening. When the Syrian soldier realized I was in some way attached to this Lebanese man, he brought Ali in and told him to take our son and forget he ever had an American wife. Ali reached for our son’s hand, but I wouldn’t let go. I was hysterical. As I was dragged away from the only two people I loved and would die for, I began to feel unsure if Ali loved me enough to get me out of the terrifying, horrific reality that was enveloping me.
I was convinced they were going to kill me. Fighting their tight grips, I was locked in a room with a hole in the ground. After many hours (which could have been days and weeks for all I knew) in the locked room, I was taken to a room where I saw Ali and my son. I doubt they recognized me. I had cried so long and hard that my eyes were almost swollen shut, and I had lost my voice from screaming for my son. I ran to them, kissing them and picking up my son just to smell his sweet baby smell.
Thankfully, Ali did love me enough at that time, and I was released to his custody. I was told that I could never come to Syria again. I couldn’t agree fast enough.
It took another two weeks and a lot of bribes to finally get me on a plane to take me and my son home. On the outside, our lives picked up where they left off. What others didn’t see is that it took many months for me to feel safe enough to travel even within the United States, and that my marriage never really recovered. We moved to Houston, Texas in 1991 where Ali opened up a new restaurant. I had my other son in 1993, but another kid and a change of scenery still couldn’t save our marriage, and we divorced in 1995.
I never went back to Lebanon even though the family and people I met there were kind, loving and wonderful. Yet, I never trusted the entire region again and that sometimes makes me feel sad, like somehow, I failed. I am sad, because I know the whole cannot be judged by the one. I know that intellectually and logically, however, my soul still feels wounded whenever I think about what the Syrian soldier intended.
With this revelation, one would think I would be more cautious and avoid destructive people. Unfortunately, I did not, and in the same year as my divorce from Ali, I rushed into another marriage that was very abusive and dangerous. It only lasted for 18 months before I got away.
While all the experiences I’ve had with awful people have been terrifying, I gained valuable insight from them. I learned that life doesn’t always play out in a happy fairy-tale way, and can even be tragic, but it does contain joyous moments that bring us so much love that our heart overflows. People can be full of hate but not because they want to be, rather it’s because it is all they have ever known. Still, change is possible. My father and second husband may never change, but there is still hope for others.
This is the story of Samantha Seconds
Samantha happily lives in Houston, Texas with her husband. Despite growing up in an abusive home, Samantha was convinced that all people were inherently good. She soon learned how wrong she was after a dangerous encounter with an officer in Syria who detained her, taking her away from her son and husband at the time. After the experience, she realized that not all people are good, but not all are bad either. Her life has never been the same since. She believes that every time she tells her truth it brings her and others peace and comfort to know they aren’t alone. Samantha has learned that she will never heal if she does not tell her story, so she shares it with others including those that read her blog: https://secondsandinchesblog.wordpress.com/
This story first touched our hearts on September 1, 2018.
| Writer: Samantha Seconds | Editors: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker |
If you are interested in learning more about Samantha, please read more of her stories with us:
After a rough childhood full of abuse that couldn’t be talked about, Samantha learned to wear a mask and pretend life was perfect which led her to destructive behaviors in life including choosing abusive men and serving some jail time.
When Samantha encountered three instances of freak accidental deaths in her childhood, she began to believe that the “shadow of death” was following her. As she grew up, she became less afraid that she was cursed and learned that life has its own agenda that cannot be controlled.