August 31st is the anniversary of one of the major single-event tragedies of the war in Iraq. On this day in 2005, during a pilgrimage of Shiites to a holy site in Kadhmiya, a rumor circulated of suicide bombers coming to target the bridge between Kadhmiya and Adhamiya.
In the ensuing panic, many people were trampled and others drowned after leaping from the bridge into the Tigris River. Estimates for the number killed range from 900 to more than 1100.
This day was both one of the greatest tragedies for Iraq in recent history, but also evidenced some of the greatest hope. During the chaos, residents of the Sunni neighborhood Adhamiya came to the rescue of their Shi’a neighbors. People opened their homes to offer dry clothing and tea, and the Abu Hanifa Mosque was used as a gathering place for separated families to find each other.
There are countless stories of bravery and self-sacrifice from that day. In this episode, Sami Rasouli will relate one of the most famous stories, about an Iraqi Olympic swimmer who is Sunni, but whose father is Shi’a, and who saved many Iraqi pilgrims that day.
You will note the interview was shot by candlelight due to a power outage at the time of production. This piece was filmed by Brian Conley and Omar Abdullah last fall, and was edited by Michael Verdi.