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It Started Out as Just Another Slow Night at MDA

Leah Stern


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What seemed to be just another Saturday night late shift turned out to be much more than expected for many Magen David Adom personnel in Jerusalem.

"The night was pretty slow. We only had one call the entire night and were just hanging out and having a good time," said Becca Goodman, 20, and intermediate first responder from Los Angeles, who was stationed in Pisgat Ze'ev. "The phone rang at around 5:52 a.m., and the main Jerusalem station instructed us to get into the ambulance immediately, that a bus bombing had just taken place in French Hill.

"Tension in the ambulance was extremely high. I put on two sets of gloves, while I prepared the medic bag filled with dozens of bandages, as the others rushed to put on their orange vests filled with bandages."

Foreign volunteer coordinator Ariel Deitcher, 19, arrived at the MDA station minutes too late to help.

"The massive response of MDA staff that arrived to assist was overwhelming," he said, "but unfortunately many of us were told we were too late and had to leave. Everyone wants to be there and help. You think, 'Maybe if I was faster, I could have been the next person who could have made a difference.'"

About 600 first responders received pager messages reading, "But bombing in French Hill." Some 50 of them arrived on the scene within minutes of the blast, Deitcher said.

"When I arrived, the first thing that I saw was glass on the ground and debris everywhere," Goodman said. "I looked down the road and saw the shell of the bus. It looked like a skeleton, with all the windows blown out, and everything burned and charred. All the doors were gone, and shredded metal and blood were all around me."

"We pulled in front of the skeleton of the bus and were directed to park on the opposite side of the street, so we drove over the median and parked. I was told to take the bed with me, so I removed it from the ambulance, and all of us who rode there together were instantly separated."

She was led to the front of the bus and given a severely wounded victim, already lying on a back board. A policeman assisted her in getting the patient into the ambulance.

"People were being treated all over the place, and I will never forget the way it smelled. I can't describe what it's like, but I can still smell it even after. God forbid you should ever have to smell something like that."

"I remember stepping over a pair of broken sunglasses with blood on them, which I noticed because mine are always atop my head when I am working. As we drove away, I remember thinking that it was a battlefield in the middle of Jerusalem."

The patient arrived at the hospital in enough time to survive.

When Goodman arrived at the hospital she was overwhelmed. "I cried for about 30 seconds, but then I shut up, realizing that other people needed me. I have been at one other bombing scene over the course of my year as a volunteer, and it never gets easier. I remember talking with a medic I rode over to the scene with, telling me, 'You saved a life today, you did good. Don't forget that.'"

"I said in the end I still want to be a paramedic. 'You are still meant to be one,' he said."

Later in the morning, Goodman went home to rest, but returned to the station in the evening to sign up for another shift.

"Our job is to help people when they hurt, and that's what I did today, and that's what I'll do tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life," she said.

Both Goodman and Deitcher came to MDA through the Jewish Agency's Yochai Porat MDA Overseas Volunteer Program.

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Leah Stern is a contributing writer for