Live long enough, and you’ll see some interesting things. If you’re lucky enough, it’s possible you’ll see or be a part of something truly memorable and unusual. Maybe even something historic.
During my lifetime, I’ve been that fortunate twice. The first time was when I was lucky enough to be in Korea when Reagan visited the DMZ, and to provide support for that mission (though I didn’t get to see the actual speech). I’ll always feel honored to have been there.
The second time occurred some 24 years later. And it was, perhaps, even more memorable than the first.
January 11, 2008 dawned in Baghdad. Just another brutal, muddy, nasty, cold day – right?
Yes, I did say cold. Although Baghdad and surrounding area indeed gets hellish hot during the summer, during the winter it also gets colder than you might think. Baghdad’s at about the same latitude as Columbus, GA, or Dallas/Fort Worth, TX – and like those cities, it’s inland. So it does get pretty cool in the winter; today’s high and low there are predicted to be 59 F and 34 F, respectively.
Frost was not common, but was also not unknown. And the winter of 2007-2008 was reputedly the coldest in at least a decade.
Baghdad gets most of its rain during the winter, too. And when that little bit of rain hits the finely-powdered silt making up the soil in the Tigris/Euphrates valley system, the result is . . . different. Think wet, sticky paste. Slippery, medium yellow-brown paste.
I think I gained an inch or so in height every time I went outside that winter when things were wet. (smile)
But January 11, 2008 was different. The sky was steel-grey, and it was still. Things simply felt different than normal. Something was up. And around sunrise, we found out what it was.
It began to snow. Big, wet flakes.
It didn’t snow much – just a dusting on exposed items and surfaces; most of it melted on contact. And what little stuck didn’t stay around for long at all.
But it snowed. In Baghdad.
Those who’ve never lived in a hot, desert climate can’t really appreciate the impact of a low desert snowfall. It is a truly magnificent sight – if for no other reason than because they’re generally exceptionally rare. It’s like seeing a horizon-to-horizon double-rainbow. Yes, they can happen. But they’re rare enough that not very many people ever get to see one.
Snow was indeed a rare thing in Baghdad. One source said it had been over 60 years since the last snowfall in the area. Others said it had been over a century.
I don’t know which is correct. And, frankly, I don’t care. I only know I was lucky enough to see it in person.
Snow. In Baghdad.
And, for what it’s worth: during the snowfall, reportedly things were rather quiet in the city.