Shatila by Night

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OUTLINE

As the IDF secures southern Beirut with the help of local Christian militias, Carla, 7, is flown in from Switzerland to the deathbed of her HIV infected father in NYC, then stays for the funerals.

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NIGHT, SHATILA REFUGEE CAMP, SOUTH BEIRUT, LEBANON, 1982

Moshe Yatom's AH-1 Cobra helicopter is circling around the Shatila refugee camp. Through the use of night vision technology, Moshe monitors the advance of several groups of armed men gathering people from house to house and systematically lining them up before opening fire upon them. Occasional flares light up the sky.

Moshe
(in Hebrew through his helmet's microphone)
Visual on several separate groups of men entering houses and extracting its occupants... looks like civilians... Scope is blurry but looks like rounds are being shot.

Radio Voice
Any response from the Palestinians?

Moshe
Not from what we can see on this flight path. Someone is shooting flares from inside the perimeter. We're staying above 500 meters along the coast to avoid RPGs from the West.

Radio Voice
Don't worry about the flares. That's us. They know your flight path. Continue monitoring. Give me a Sitrep in 30 minutes.

Moshe turns towards the pilot.

Pilot
(to Moshe)
Who's down there shooting?

Moshe
Some Gemayel units most likely... But we're providing the daylight it seems.

Pilot
That's nuts! What's the plan.

Moshe
Observe and report.

BETH ISRAEL HOSPITAL, MANHATTAN, NYC, 1982

K. Haring, 1982

Pat wakes up to find his daughter Carla, 7, by his side. She just flew in from Switzerland after long discussions between the Xanthis and Beerli families.

Carla stands still as Pat opens his eyes. He extends his arms but his mouth is too dry for him to talk. Carla doesn't move and Pat smiles at her. He reaches a piece of paper and a pen on the side table and writes a note which he then hands to Carla. Carla stiffly extends her arm to get the note and reads it. "I will always love you".

A tear drops on Carla's frozen cheek.

IDF ADVANCED POST, SOUTHERN LEBANON

Moshe has been raised as a Zionist idealist by his Moshavim father. On the other hand, his mother, Isabella, infused him a sense of justice and discernment. Nonetheless, his harsher military/conservative side always protruded in public, until this day.

After 48 hours of non-stop missions over Beirut and now back at an IAF FOB near Jezzine, Moshe is being debriefed by his unit's commander. Black and White aerial shots and a map are laid out on the table. Two Aman (Military Intelligence) officers are also present.

-So Yatom, could you confirm the unfolding of events, starting from Mission IAFUZ45X 16091982UTC15:00:00

Moshe pulls his observation log pad and flips back a few pages. He clears his throat and starts the debriefing.

-Upon reaching the designated perimeter, at around UTC 15:45 that night, we were first surprised by constant launches of flares from what I initially wrote as within the perimeter but later learned and observed were from outside, from our own positions around it.

One of the Aman officer interferes, cutting off Moshe.

-That has not been confirmed, so please Captain, just stick to the observations... What we are interested in knowing is where exactly did you see the first flashes.

-You mean the gun fire?

-Yes, the gun fire.

Moshes looks back at his pad then points at the map.

-First northbound pass, maybe a five minutes after the our flares, I mean the flares, started lighting up the sky. Pretty much simultaneously here, here and here.

-And what exactly did you see.

-Well, I have to say the night vision goggles where somehow affected by the constant change of light from the flares so I only got sporadic flashes of clear view.

-And?

-Well... Moshe hesitates a moment, then continues, his voice a little less confident. -What appeared to be armed men, divided into squads of maybe 8 to 12 men pulled what appeared to be unarmed civilians, including what appeared to be women and children, from houses and after rounding up enough of them, lined them up, and... open fire.

-How many groups or squads could you confidently say were operating at the same time?

Moshe looks back at his log pad then at the map.

-From the frequency of the rounds and the distance between each location, I'd say at least 5.

-So between 40 and 60 men total.

-No, more, much more. At another 50 to a 100 men were stationed at each entrance, here, here, here and...

-And how do you know they were with the same group.

-I don't but they also were shooting at civilians trying to run away....

ST-MICHAEL'S CEMETARY CEMETERY, ASTORIA, NYC

An Orthodox priest is reciting a prayer while a cold autumn rain pours on the mourners. Carla, tightly holds her grand-father's hand as Pat's coffin is lowered into the ground. Although she's caught between the solemness of the moment and the mixed emotions of knowing that her long awaited father is now nailed into this wooden box, she is captivated by the gallery of characters attending the ceremony. Most of the men wear suits and ties but she can't help but notice the colored hair, the lack of socks, the multiple piercings and yes, this woman dressed with a long black plastic raincoat who really looks like a man.

TIMES SQUARE MANHATTAN, NYC

Anastasio is holding Carla's hand as he shows her around Times Square. This is another world from her homy Mittelland. She has never seen son many people, cars, buildings and billboards. But even when she closes her eyes, the sensory flow persists. Engines, whistles, horns; the smell of hot pretzels, gas and vapor blowing out from underground. Is this hell? Definitely not paradise, but little Carla is more intrigued the scared.

EVENING, 8TH AVENUE DINER, MANHATTAN, NYC

Anastasio
You're a big girl now.

Carla sits still in her booth sipping on a milk shake.

Anastasio (con't)
A very long time ago, way before your daddy was born, way before I married yiayia, I lost what at that time was the most important person in the world. I lost her to save her life and to follow the mission my father had given me. I never saw her again, and I never saw my father neither. But since then, they've always been with me. In my dreams, when life was difficult and when beautiful things happened to me. Like when you were born...

Carla sips through the bottom of her glass making noise with her straw.

Anastasio
(gently smiling)
You want another one Koukla?

Carla
(in English with a Swiss German accent)
No... I want a sandwich with orange cheese.

Anastasio
A grill cheese?

Carla nods yes with a smile.

Anastasio
(to the waitress in Greek)
A grill cheese and a Coke... Please.

Anastasio
Anyways... You're a big girl but for me, you'll always be my Koukla. You're father also had a happy life, even if it was short and I'm sure that he was happy to see you near him at the end, to see that life continues through you.

Anastasio grabs her cheek across the table as Carla gives him a smile. The CBS Evening News theme emanates from a television set near the cash counter.

Anastasio
(somewhat paying attention to the newscast)
Time to go. We don't want to miss the plane. We'll get the grill cheese to go, Ok.

CBS EVENING NEWS WITH BOB SCHIEFFER, 25 SEPTEMBER 1982

  • 400,000 people march in the streets of Tel Aviv to protest against the Sabra & Shatila massacres.
  • Penn prison guard George Banks kills 13 (5 were his own children)
  • USSR performs an underground nuclear test
  • CDC announces the spread of new infectious disease named AIDS and also known as "gay cancer" amongst the male homosexual population in NYC, SF and LA.

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