Like I told the cops; she'd just stopped by my sidewalk table at Cafe Marseilles and asked me the time, then started across the street. I didn't know her, but I wish I had, because--if for no other reason--I'd be pleased and honored to tell anyone who'd listen about her last moments on Earth.
Watching the Israeli cops, fire, and other emergency personnel mill around the bus stop across from the cafe, I was amazed at how much damage one strap-on bomb can do.
The big red and white tour bus was riddled with holes. All but two of its windows were gone or shattered and it listed to the right because all of the tires on that side were flat.
Fifty or so men, women, and children on some kind of day tour had been waiting within the terminal lounge and had started filing out the glass double doors to meet the bus.
My eyes had been on the thirtyish brunette who'd asked me the time as she'd crossed the street toward the terminal. She'd kept herself fairly fit, though not the level of fitness you see in aerobics. Her tan was the kind you can't get in a tanning booth and it looked damned good on her long, shorts-clad legs.
She'd suddenly stopped cold in the middle of the street, glanced both ways as she'd dropped her two shopping bags, and then she'd sprinted like a track star directly at some guy coming out of the bus terminal bathroom alcove.
He'd looked up from fumbling with something in his left hand and seen her just before she'd slammed into him with a loud scream and driven him backward into the concrete alcove and out of my line of sight.
There'd been a bright flash, an explosion louder than any I'd ever heard in a war zone, and the block wall directly across the outdoor walkway from the alcove had seemed to fly apart before a twenty-foot section of it collapsed.
The amount of damage in the immediate vicinity was flatly phenomenal. Car and building windows as far as a block away were missing or shattered. A big aluminum 'no parking' sign near the walkway now looked like a colorful cheese grater due to shrapnel punching through it.
My table and others near it had been knocked over by a concussion wave. Window glass littered the sidewalk and people were screaming and yelling in what seemed like three or four languages. I reflexively checked myself for damage, got up, and circulated among them to see if I could help.
Half a dozen people had been injured, but nobody seemed to be in critical condition and a few people who looked as if they knew what they were doing had begun tending them with napkins, strips of tablecloths, and whatever else came to hand.
That's when a cop grabbed my arm and gabbled at me in Hebrew far too quickly for me to understand more than a few words. I asked him to talk slower.
A man in his fifties looked up from holding a napkin compress to a woman's arm and said, "He wants your papers. Someone told him you were the last person to speak with the woman who ran across the street."
Nodding, I showed my passport and said, "She wanted to know the time. I told her and she headed toward the bus. Those two bags in the middle of the street are hers."
He translated for the cop, who was writing down my info. That was a good sign. If a lone cop is taking notes, he doesn't consider you a dangerous suspect.
After a few more questions, the cop gave me a card along with my passport and moved on. I looked at the Hebrew I couldn't read, then looked at the guy who'd translated.
"It's an instruction card," he said, "It basically says you're to stay here until someone has taken your report." Returning his gaze to the woman's arm, he added quietly, "I have three of them."
Emergency vehicles arrived and authorities took over the scene. Another cop who was talking with a fireman glanced in my direction and I held up the card. He pointed at another cop and sent him over to me. Fifteen minutes later, with the help of the man who'd translated for me before, I was free to go.
As I turned to thank my translator, the wall and roof of the bus terminal's walkway collapsed on two firemen and I ran over there to help dig them out. They were shaken and bruised, but not seriously hurt. I looked toward the alcove, but a section of the roof had completely covered it.
Another fireman thanked me, but rather insistently took my arm to lead me out of the debris. All I was able to make out was "...our sort of work. Not for civilians..."
Yeah, fine. I went with him beyond the taped-off perimeter the cops had set up and took a last look at the devastation, then walked down the street to the beach.