When Hills are Alive with the Sound of Bombs

farhaBy Farha Guerrero
Published: Oct 2, 2015


IT IS winter. I wake up and begin the normal routine of making lunches, packing school bags and feeding two hungry mouths. Everything is quiet in this small mountain town. Everything that is, except for the sound of bombs blasting high above our neighbourhood.
The bombs today are especially loud. Explosives comprised mostly of ammonium nitrate and tossed at a speed of 5.6km a second are heard at great distances, even echoing down to the base of my sons’ school. But hearing the bombs brings no fear. My boys don’t wince or worry. We walk to school as always in peace, and without any haste.
When are the sounds of bombs a good thing? When do we find the sounds of bombs even comforting? For those of us who live on Whistler mountain, hearing explosions early in the morning can only mean one thing. It rained hard last night and the heavy precipitation has brought heavy snowfall in the alpine. The ringing of explosions brings joy and impatient excitement. Avalanche control is at work and if the work is done in time we will soon be skiing on powdery snow. The more the blasts, the more confidence we feel in knowing that we will be safe today.
The truth is that the ‘sound of bombs’ rarely ever bring any kind of comfort or safety. For the vast majority of people in the world, bombs heard overhead in the morning only reverberate more fear and sadness. Far from this small mountain town, war rages on and bombs are thrown and innocent civilians are killed. It is a story too often told and one that seems so distant from the safe coastal mountains in which I live.
The story of the small Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi who drowned at sea while his family hoped for a better life has shed tears worldwide and we are reminded once again of how desperate people can be when bombs begin to explode in their neighbourhoods. Aylan’s family were fleeing the bombs, escaping persecution in their homeland. They were seeking a safer life. A life where they too could walk their children to school in peace.
Aylan Kurdi’s death is now a symbol of an ongoing international tragedy. But it is his photo that haunts us. Photos, unlike moving videos, pack a lot more punch because in one frame they capture a single moment frozen in time. His photo tells us everything about what happened to him. We see his face submerged in the water that he no longer senses in a lifeless body. We see his clothes and small shoes, wet and worn, his skin tone, his brown hair and curled fingers all in tact with a facial expression that looks like he is asleep. When we look at Aylan Kurdi’s photo we are not seeing a lifeless body on a sandy ocean shore. We are seeing our own dead son lying face down in the water. This deeply pains us.
To my fellow skiers: when the ski season returns again this winter, and the explosions are dropped for avalanche safety on Whistler mountain and in ski resorts around the world, let’s take a moment to consider, ponder and reflect on Aylan’s small life. Let’s remember his story, breathe in a moment of silence before our ski run and hope and pray that the bombs in his homeland finally cease and the people fleeing his country are given the safe haven they so rightfully deserve.

Farha Guerrero is a resident of Whistler and a mother of two very busy sons. She is an avid writer and downhill and cross country skier and enjoys spending as many days as possible in the mountains.