"We left everything. We are never going back. We just wanted to escape."
RAS LANOUF, Libya -- Clearly rattled by the explosions and fatalities yesterday, the fighters at Ras Lanouf, one of the "liberated" eastern towns closest to the front line dividing the rebel-held east from what's left of the Qaddafi-controlled west, were visibly tense. About a hundred soldiers milled around. Occasionally, young men stalked off the road into the surrounding desert to swing their Kalashnikovs upwards and fire for a minute or two in rage and frustration.
The source of their outrage was a pickup truck with a shattered windshield and blood-splattered interior. An old man with tears streaming down his face held a child's shoe in the air, a flip flop bearing the insignia of the Barcelona soccer team. The shoe had been left in a car near where one of Qaddafi's warplanes had dropped two bombs. The bombs left three-foot-deep craters on the road, which families had been using to flee. The shock wave alone sent all five members of one family to the hospital, one with shrapnel wounds.
Salam Hussein, a chemical engineer who has worked at the Rasco oil plant in Ras Lanouf since 1996, had been driving. The 47-year-old father had hoped to get his wife and three children back to their home in Bayda, which was thought to be safer, when the bomb landed nearby, sending shrapnel through his windshield. The left side of his face was lacerated with glass and he sustained injuries to his shoulder. "It looked like a rock was coming at us, all I saw was smoke," Hussain said. "Saleh, my three-year-old son, did not speak at all for the two hours it took to get to the hospital."