February 16th, 4:10 p.m. A young medical student has just finished classes at the Marrakesh Faculte de Medecine. He and his brother are heading home to the Cinco appartment buildings near my house. He is 20 years old, and has left his hometown of Safi to pursue his medical studies in Marrakesh, in the only medical school in the south of Morocco.
It’s a very blustery day. Unseasonably strong winds make it very hard to be outside. Marrakesh is not built with extreme weather in mind, and that is proven each winter in the brief but intense rainy season, as news of collapsed houses and flash floods make headlines.
The Cinco appartment buildings are a giant monolithic block, not unlike a housing project. They are 5 storeys high, home to many university students who travel to Marrakesh from nearby cities, like Safi, Eljadida, Beni Mellal, or from other African countries like Mali and Senegal where a Moroccan education is considered more prestigious.
On the rooftop terrace of Cinco, a crude wall, hastily thrown together with cinderblocks and cement, divides one side from the other. The heavy rains that we’ve gotten for the past two weeks have soaked through the wall.
The young man is hurrying towards the entrance of Cinco, anxious to get out of the wind. At that very moment, the wall 5 storeys up collapses, and a detached cinderblock falls over the side of the building. It plummets down, hits an awning of a store, slides off and slams full force into the young man. His brother who is a few steps behind him, is untouched, but he has witnessed the scene and he is screaming in shock.
As the medics load the young man into the ambulance, those gathered catch glimpses of him…his skull, bloodied and bashed…his eyelashes fluttering. And when they wheel him into the emergency room of Hopital Civil, he breathes his last breath.
He is dead.
This post is for him, not to question why and what if, although those questions are inevitable and do deserve consideration. But to stop, to offer a prayer for his soul. To remember and honor, to mark his passing in some way. Although it was his fate to die at that moment in that way, it’s shocking and disturbing, sad and heartbreaking. I cannot imagine how that boy’s mother felt when she was told the news, that her young son had died, far from home, in such a random accident. What a huge gap he will leave in her life.
Death is so close to life, just a breath away. Moroccan graves are inscribed with this verse : Every soul must taste death.