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Richardson Woman, Who Moved To Gaza For Love, Reflects On Life In A War Zone

Richardson native Mariam Muhanna fell in love with a man from Gaza City. Last month, she traveled there to marry him. A week after their wedding, bombs destroyed parts of the city, killing four of her relatives. 

In this latest conflict, more than 1,100 people have been killed. In the first of two interviews from the opposite sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Muhanna talks with KERA. (Listen to a North Texas Jewish leader reflect on her recent trip to Israel.)

 Interview Highlights: Mariam Muhanna...

…On when she left North Texas: "We left Dallas on June 1st, and it took us two weeks to actually get into Gaza, because the border between Egypt and Gaza was closed. And in that time I had a week to plan my wedding, And then a week after the wedding, the war erupted."  

… On the latest violence that killed four of her family members:  "A missile hit their flat in an apartment building in the middle of Gaza City. Samar was just a few years older than I am. And she had a great life ahead of her. She had so much potential. It's devastating. It's devastating to know that just innocents are in the middle of all of this."  

… On her parents returning to the U.S.: "I didn't get to say goodbye. I stood out the window and I waved, and that's it. I could not even walk down the stairs, to the front of the apartment building to get out and hug my mom, you just can't. It's difficult. And the reality of the situation is you want to stay safe, you do all you can to stay safe."  

… On witnessing the destruction of a police station across from her home:  "I have never felt such horror. All I could see were red flames, what I thought was towards me in the window. I was instantly in a fetal position on the ground, screaming, wailing and crying. I wouldn't want anyone to go through this. I had to go through it to feel for the people of Gaza."  

…On life in Richardson: "That is where I grew up. And quite frankly, we never heard a gunshot. You went to school, you came home, you went to college, you came home. I got to do what I wanted to do...without the worry of being hit by an air-drone or an F-16 missile. I don't think any human being can be aware of what's going on."

…On returning home: "I always said that Texas was home. And I'd always want to come back. Now I feel that it would be unfair to leave Gaza, a place where people don't have the choice to leave. I feel it would be selfish and very spoiled of me to pack up when the going gets hard, and to just leave, and leave a whole people behind that don't have an escape the way I do."  

...On how she copes in Gaza City:  "I try to stay sane by staying on top of my Twitter. I try to tweet as much as I can. I've started a blog. And every other day, I write about my feelings, or about what happened in Gaza. It keeps me connected to the rest of the world. I keep my Facebook posts going. I have my friends in Dallas keeping us in their prayers. We can hope and pray that this will be over soon."   


Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.