She stepped onto Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center Wednesday night, with the understated beats of a hip-hop interlude fading into the background, as she walked into the spotlight.
Hours earlier, far from the audience, spoken word poetry artist Amal Kassir lost ten family members in Syria. The same day, a chemical attack turned the eyes of the world towards the war-torn country.
“I could have not come today, there was that option,” Kassir told the Kennedy Center crowd. “But when we say, ‘humanity,’ sometimes those who are as lucky as us to be in these beautiful halls, sometimes it’s necessary for us to break our own hearts.”
A bomb hit her family’s apartment building. They tried to take cover from the barrage of bombs in the basement, but their home in Ghouta was once again under inescapable assault.
The missile attack came in the hours after the Syrian regime is suspected of launching a chemical attack, one that killed at least 72. Images of the motionless women and children spread around the globe, drawing international condemnation.
“This was the first penetration of war in my father’s siblings,” Kassir said. “My grandmother hasn’t lost a child in 28 years, and she can’t utter a word right now.”
Among those lost were Kassir’s aunt, three cousins, and a pregnant daughter-in-law. Medics pulled a family member from the rubble alive, but joy quickly turned to anguish when the survivor succumbed to her injuries.
“We have one choice, and it’s to come out stronger,” Kassir said, explaining in an interview why she made the trip from her home in Denver to Washington Wednesday night.
“My heart hurts, and there are times when my heart feels nothing. But I know I’m not alone, and it feels like everyone is holding a bit of my heart with me.”