Published August 20, 2003
JERUSALEM – One-year-old Shira Cohen lay alone in a hospital bed surrounded by machines, her face sliced with cuts from a suicide bus bombing.
Doctors only learned her identity because X-rays revealed surgery she'd once had to remove a kidney. Her parents, they found out later, were also among the more than 100 wounded in Tuesday's bombing and had been hospitalized elsewhere.
The Jerusalem blast was especially horrific for the number of children who were hurt or killed. The Palestinian bomber hit a bus full of families returning from the Western Wall (search), Judaism's holiest shrine, and at least six children were among the 20 dead, police said.
Rescue workers who rushed to the scene whisked children and adults away in separate ambulances. Many of the 40 wounded children were separated from their families and were still unidentified, while others were alone in hospitals waiting for parents who may have been killed.
Several crying children with tattered clothes and blood-smeared faces were led away from the scene of the blast, and a man tried to resuscitate one infant. A rescue worker searching the blown-apart bus found one baby covered in blood, but unhurt among the dead.
"From this terrible inferno of bloody, burnt bodies, I lifted a baby — alive, unhurt, crying," rescue worker Yehuda Meshi-Zahav said. "You have to thank God."
One toddler died at a hospital before his parents could be found. The X-rays of some tiny bodies were labeled with numbers because names were unknown. A badly wounded 1-month-old infant was only recognized by her weight.
Shira lay alone at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital (search), no relatives beside her bed. Her eye was damaged but may have to be removed because doctors couldn't find her parents in time to get permission to operate.
Dr. Ido Yatsiv, a specialist in the pediatric intensive care unit, watched over her and two other wounded children.
"This little girl over here lost her brother," he said, walking over to the sleeping child, a 6-year-old named Esther. "She doesn't know that, of course."
Esther was deeply sedated, breathing oxygen from a mask. From time to time, a nurse drained fluid and blood from her lungs, which were badly torn by the blast. The girl was to have started first grade in two weeks.
Her parents were also being treated at another hospital. A weeping aunt watched over her.
Across the room, Batya Kodari, 16, talked with her wounded brother Meir. The slight, 6-year-old boy occasionally dozed off, and then his red, teary eyes would open weakly.
Batya escaped injury because she was on another bus, but her brother got on the packed bus with three sisters and an aunt leaving the Western Wall. Their parents were at home at the time.
"I said to my aunt, 'Come on, it's too full, let's get off the bus,"' recalled Batya. Her aunt said she was too tired to get up and switch buses. Trailing the rest of her family, Batya heard and felt the blast.
"We didn't see it," she said. "We just smelt fire, and there was a loud bang and shaking."
Her pregnant aunt and her sister suffered burns and cuts on their arms and faces. Meir was lightly hurt and was expected to be out of the hospital in a few days.
On Wednesday afternoon, the boy's mother arrived and leaned over to kiss him. In a whisper, she said to the boy: "It was an attack on the bus, you know that?"
"Do you hurt? Are you cold?" she asked, giving him a hug.