October 7 was beautiful, clear day, and the sky above Israel seemed to go on forever.
It was the weekend. It was the Sabbath. It was a religious holiday.
What we saw – taken from home security camera footage, or mobile phones, or live-streaming, but mostly from the footage Hamas shot themselves, on GoPros – was so, so clear.
It wasn’t fuzzy or faded or hard to see. You could see all of it. You could hear all of it.
This is what we saw. This is what we heard.
I saw the decapitated heads of babies and children. I saw babies with bullet holes in them. I saw babies and children who had been burned until all that you could see was the outline of their little bodies, arms reaching up to God.
I saw a girl, perhaps six or seven, her tiny frame covered in blood and dirt. She was wearing Mickey Mouse pajamas. There was the body of another girl, even younger. She was still in a sun dress with blue butterflies on it. Her hands were arrayed across her chest, like little broken pieces of china.
I saw the Hamas monsters – they were disguised as men, but they were assuredly monsters – firing North Korean Type 58 self-loading rifles at cars carrying Israeli families. The windshields would crack and shatter, there would be sprays of blood and viscera, and then the cars would slow to a halt. The monsters would then pull the Israelis out, and shoot them in their heads. They did that over and over and over. Then they’d cheer and dance beside the bodies. They left behind ISIS flags, here and there.
I saw them at the gate to the Be’eri kibbutz, waiting for a resident to drive up and for the gate start to open. Then they shot the man, over and over, and then they walked inside. Once there, they crept past the small white homes. They didn’t speak. You could hear them breathing on their videos. Once or twice, they’d say: “Where did they go?” They were looking for civilians to kill.
I saw them at the rear of a home, where a child’s swing could be seen. Some music is playing. A cell phone still glows on a table. One monster reached up and sliced a window screen with a box-cutter, then shot a woman who was huddled on the floor, trying to hide.
I saw a dog, a black retriever, approach the monsters, his tail wagging. They shoot him – once, twice, three times. The dog falls to the sidewalk.
I saw a man running out of his house, carrying one son, the other son rushing ahead of them. They were in their underwear. They ran into what looked like a concrete shelter. A few minutes later, one of the monsters threw a hand grenade into the space where the man had taken his boys, killing the man. The boys go into their house, bloodied, crying out for their father. The younger one can’t see out one of his eyes, because he didn’t have his eye anymore. “We’re going to die,” his brother says.
I saw two monsters enter a kindergarten. There are little knapsacks hung neatly on the door that the monsters pass through. A woman is hiding inside a room there, under some of the pillows the children use at nap time. There’s no sound. She’s alive – and then, moments later, she’s dead, or close to it. They carry her out. We don’t see her again.
I saw another woman, hiding under a desk in a kitchen. She’s crying. They shoot her three times, and the crying stops.
I saw a man, perhaps a foreign national – dozens were killed or kidnapped that day – lying on the ground near a wall. He’s bleeding. He moves his arms, a bit. One of the monsters then takes a hoe, and starts hacking at the man’s neck, trying to behead him. “God is great!” the monster screams every time he brings down the blade on the man’s neck.
I saw a woman, dead, holding a dead child in her arms. They are in a room. It’s a bit dim. Then I see there are other dead children and adults there, too. The monsters stand there for a while, looking at the bodies. Sometimes, they fire more bullets into them and cheer.
I saw senior citizens at a bus stop in Sderot, which isn’t far from the border. They had been on a sightseeing tour, and the monsters killed them all. Their bodies were twisted on the ground, left among the canes and walkers and the dirt.
I heard a Hamas monster calling his parents in Gaza. “Dad,” he said in Arabic, “I’m talking from a Jewish woman’s phone. I killed her and her husband. With my bare hands, Dad. Dad, I killed ten, ten with my bare hands.” His mother comes on the line. “Mom, your son is a hero! Kill kill kill them!”
There was another one, caught on tape. “Let history be my witness,” he said. “That this was the first man I killed. The first one. A Jew. Give me a knife, I swear to you by God I will cut off his head.”
There was another one. Two monsters are talking about a dead Jew. “Bring him and crucify him,” one says. He laughs. “We’ve totally slaughtered them.”
I saw a man trying to escape the music festival in Re’im. He tries to hide at the rear of a car. A monster sees him, walks over, and shoots the man in the head.
I saw the Hamas monsters – all of them in military gear, top to bottom, no T-shirts or jeans or the like – take selfies with the bodies of the people they had killed at some of the 30 towns and army bases they attacked. Over and over, they’d yell: “Allah akbar!” God is great, but God does not seem to be present on this day.
At the end of the footage – 45 minutes of it, but it feels like it has gone on for 45 weeks – a first responder finds the bodies of the young people at the music festival. There are dozens of them, bloodied and splayed out in the dirt. “Is anyone alive?” he asks, and there is silence. “Give us a sign of life. Is anyone alive?” But no sound comes.
There was more, much more. About 25 of us are there, mainly journalists and writers. A woman is crying. A man I know is crying.
I go outside and my colleague Brian Lilley is waiting for me. He asks me how I am.
And then I start to cry, and I cannot stop.