On Tuesday, June 18 2002, Shiri Negari left her home in Gilo, Jerusalem, for work. She had a temporary job in a bank, where she planned to work until the beginning of the next academic year when she was to start her undergraduate studies. Shiri had missed her bus to work so she joined her mother, Esther, who was just leaving by car to take Shiri's younger brother, Shahar, to school. They dropped Shiri off on their way and continued towards the school.
A Palestinian terrorist boarded the bus at the next bus stop, and almost immediately detonated a high-powered bomb which he was carrying in a bag stuffed with small pieces of metal. The bus, crowded with school children and office workers, was lifted into the air. Its roof was peeled back like a can of sardines. Eyewitnesses described the horrifying scene of that huge explosion -the smoke - the pieces of the bus - the human body parts flying everywhere.
Shiri's father was still at home when he heard that there was a terror attack on the 32A bus from Gilo. He realized that Shiri was probably on that bus, and began to run as fast as he could towards the spot to look for her. When he arrived at the scene of the explosion, he was shocked to see the ghastly remains of the bus. It was clear that something awful had happened to his daughter. In fact, Shiri had suffered serious internal injuries, and was being rushed by ambulance to the 'Hadassah Ein-Karem' hospital.
Meanwhile, on the road to Shahar's school, the sight of the many ambulances and the wailing of sirens alerted Shiri's mother to the fact that something was wrong. When she saw an ambulance marked 'ZAKA' (a special volunteer group unit which collects the body parts of terror attack victims for religious burial) she turned her car around and started back to the place where she had left Shiri. Then, on her phone, she got the message that Shiri was indeed injured, and immediately drove to the hospital to join her husband.
The paramedics who treated Shiri in the ambulance reported that Shiri was calm despite her severe injuries, and despite the fact that she had just gone through an extremely traumatic experience. She was well aware of what had happened, and cooperated in the attempts to keep her conscious. She gave her personal details accurately, told the paramedics where she felt pain and stretched out her arm so as she could be given an intravenous infusion. The paramedics kept Shiri updated on their current location, describing the very familiar Jerusalem landmarks as they traveled on this surreal journey to the hospital. As soon as she arrived at the hospital, Shiri was sent to the operating room, where surgeons fought to stop the internal bleeding caused by the deadly force of the bomb blast.
We, Shiri's family, started gathering outside the operating room, hoping she would survive this nightmare, praying for her life. On that tragic day, when we called each other after the attack (as relatives always do in Jerusalem in these crazy times) to make sure that everybody was safe, what we were told was the terrible news. "Shiri is severely injured. Shiri is in the operating room. Thank God she's still alive…".
Shiri died on the operating table. The unthinkable has happened. Our Shiri – that radiant, beautiful, kind and happy girl is now dead. MURDERED. She of all people?! WHY?
To think of the contrast between the innocence, beauty and goodness of Shiri's life and the brutal, cruel and evil nature of her death is horrifying.
We stayed at the hospital for a while after receiving the news of Shiri's death. At first we were too stunned to move. Then we went to see Shiri for the last time. She was pretty as always, her face almost unharmed - (we should be thankful for even such a small mercy in these terrible times) - aside from a few pieces of shrapnel which had penetrated her skin. Shiri's long golden hair -which had become a symbol of who she was to all who knew her - was now lightly burnt as a result of the fire which followed the explosion.
Then everybody waited for Shiri's brother, Shay, who had just started his compulsory military service, to come and take leave of his sister for the last time.
Shiri was buried near her grandfather in the 'Har Hamenuchot' cemetery, surrounded by her loving family and many friends.
Shiri was so special. She seemed to radiate an indefinable spiritual quality. She was uncompromised innocence and beauty. Since she was a baby, she had magnetized people with her beauty. She had never cut her hair, and her long blonde braid became a kind of personal symbol.
Shiri loved to laugh and made others laugh with her. She loved to dance and knew how to enjoy the little things in life. She had the gift of being able to see goodness and beauty in every person she met, and she kept up many close friendships with a wide variety of people. She fit perfectly into the lively and happy atmosphere of the home she grew up in. Always full of life, she loved to sing and make music. A born actress, she often delighted family and friends with her spontaneous improvisations and impressions. She wrote poetry. She loved swimming. Most of all, she was known for her high moral standards and her unconditional loyalty to the values of the religious education she received from her parents.
Shiri graduated 'Pelech' high school, majoring in biology and literature.
During her army service, Shiri served as a soldier-teacher and worked with youngsters who dropped out of school. She would sit down with them and discuss their problems in life over a game of backgammon. This period was the first time in her life that she was really separated from her home and family, developing her independence. The fragile religious girl became a strong independent young woman, though she still looked like a teenager.
After her army service, Shiri went traveling in South America. She climbed mountains, trekked exhausting paths, rafted wild rivers, saw icebergs, rode horses, scuba dived, climbed onto an active volcano, learned Spanish, bought many gifts for her friends and family, but most of all she enjoyed meeting so many people from all around the world. Shiri used to sign her e-mails home with the signature "Shiri Negari – World Traveler".
She celebrated her last birthday on July 5th, 2001 with her trip buddies. Shiri turned 21.
When her money ran out, Shiri flew to New York City where she found work in a restaurant. Ironically, just as she arrived in New York her family heard about the attack on the WTC and contacted her anxiously, fearing for her safety. On that occasion she escaped…
After a few months in New York she returned to South America to spend some time traveling around Chile.
About a year after Shiri left Israel, she decided to return home. Her family suggested that perhaps she should continue her trip abroad because they were worried about the security situation in Israel, but Shiri missed her family too much and so she packed her bags and made the long journey back to Jerusalem.
Shiri planned to start studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in October. In the meantime she took on some personal projects which included painting her room, taking care of the garden and spending time with her family.
The suicide bomber who killed Shiri on that accursed morning of June 18th, 2002, destroyed, at one blow, all the promises that the future held for our Shiri. She will never sing again, she will never get married nor have children. We will never hear her laughter. She is gone.
When Shiri joined her school delegation to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, she wrote in her diary how she was struck by the long braided hair she saw there, so like her own. It was as if Shiri was meeting her family members who were killed in that place.
Shiri had always wondered about the significance of her long hair. But there in the camp Shiri wrote that she saw how "my braid is like a link between me and them". It seems that half a century later, totally innocent Jews-Israelis are still being persecuted and murdered in cold blood.
The battle over Shiri's life is now lost, but the fight to perpetuate her beloved memory has just begun.
To learn more about Shiri (more info, pictures and sound files), visit http://www.geocities.com/ShiriNegari
---- You can contact Shiri's family at firstname.lastname@example.org