Several years ago, F and her friends Madison and Sam had to do a group project about Pompeii. They elected to videotape a newscast, with interviews of survivors. They met at the library, and went up to the fourth floor where they secured one of the meeting rooms - you can close the door but the walls are all glass. I sat down at one of the tables with my book while they set up. Presently Madison came out to fetch me. I went in and allowed them to drape F's Latin Club costume on me, and gave a (stunning) eyewitness account of what it was like to flee the volcano. When we finished, I went back out to my book. Madison then approached a man, a complete stranger, sitting at another table. "Excuse me, Sir," she said, and he closed his book and stood up. I watched through the walls as they sat him down - don't remember them making him wear a costume - and they filmed his "interview". Madison went looking for more victims afterward, but I had to take F home because she was coming down with one of the 1,776 cases of influenza that she's had in her short life (exaggerating here - it's only been maybe 8) but she was able to tell me about that man who followed me into the interview room.
He was an Iraqi immigrant. He and his family had had to flee into the mountains after the first Gulf War, with no food and only the clothes on their backs. If I recall correctly, he was about 14 then. They made it through somehow and were able to get asylum here. He gave them a very harrowing and realistic first-person eyewitness account of exactly what it's like to be a refugee - only he wasn't fleeing a natural disaster, but a man-made one. At the end, F said he apologized and said he knew that wasn't really what they were after. On the contrary.
I'm thinking about that man and his family today.