It was Friday evening, about 4 PM and I sat at my desk. I was getting ready to greet the evening shift which turns up about 6 PM and things were quiet other than a few phone calls and bits and pieces.
I logged onto Facebook and saw a status update report thing from Indi. He said that all the lights were out in Colombo and there were gunshots and an LTTE air raid going on.
"Fuck" I thought. These days my first thought is often the same.
And for the next couple of hours I watched things happening on the net. Indi and other friends had regular updates on their facebook accounts as well as on the blogs. I assumed there was no mains power in Colombo, that it was off and generators are banned when these raids happen.
So the updates, the scrambled blog posts and the few text messages I got were from laptops, blackberries and mobiles and the networks they were connecting to could have been turned off at any time if the powers that be desired it.
It was both fascinating and scary to observe all this from afar. Scary because people I love, people I like and others I frankly can't stand were, and are, in Colombo. My parents are there and like so many of the diaspora my first thought was my family and their safety. It's not just the thought of an LTTE air raid that scares me, it's also the thoughts about what might go wrong in the counter attacking, stray bullets and people panicking can do damage.
Fascinating because it was unfolding before my eyes and I could picture it all so vividly.
As time ticked away I left work and went to collect the kids, all the while wondering how things were unfolding. Live updates told all the world that one plane had come down somewhere near or in the airport, I'd seen other less certain reports that another had come down on the Inland Revenue Office, an irony that wasn't lost on anyone I think.
Perhaps a sustained attack on the tax system would have been far more effective and gained more public support than the killing of so many innocent people over the years.
Later on as I cooked spaghetti bolognaise I read Sanjana's account of his trip to the airport and I'd seen others giving even more information. It became clear that there were two aircraft down, one at the tax place. My Mum sent a text to say they were fine and I replied telling her that there were two planes down and where they were. It was funny, but not in a funny way, to think that I was very possibly more informed about what was going on there than my parents were.
I saw FB friends saying that the air raid had disrupted their evening, that things were getting back to normal and the lights and power were back on and running. The girls and I ate our dinner, the bolognaise was good but I think I should have browned the mince for about five more minutes before I left it to simmer.
In the morning I saw the photographs of buildings, planes and wreckages.
Colombo felt so far away yet so close.
This modern war, thousands of miles away over land and only seconds away over the world wide web.