ABYAN - Leading a peaceful and uneventful life, Yemeni shopkeeper Hassan Mohammed al-Amrani was dreaming of a bright future with his wife and young children.
But in one instant, his life was shattered into a million pieces, never to be mended back together.
"I left for work that morning, leaving my wife with my mother to take care of the home," Mohamed, from Zinjibar, the capital of the southern governorate of Abyan, told OnIslam.net, recalling the moment his life turned upside down.
"Then I saw themâ¦al-Qaeda, they came on the back of pick-up trucks driving widely through our neighborhood, brandishing their machine guns.
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Trying to stay out of their sight, Mohamed ran in an alleyway.
"After that it's all a blur, I heard loud explosionsâ¦smoke filled the air and I struggled to breathe," the father of six recalled.
"I had this feeling of dread on the pit of my stomachâ¦I rushed home. Only there was no home anymore. My house had been hit by a rocket."
To his shock, his wife Zeynab was killed in the drone attack.
"I had to dig my mother out of the rubbles," the poor Yemeni said.
"I'll never forgetâ¦my childrenâ¦How do you tell little ones their mummy will never come home, will never smile at them or comfort them when they cry."
Adding to their misery, nightly raids against Al-Qaeda militant continued, leaving Mohamed's children trembling in the dark.
"My youngest, Zahra, stopped speaking after that. We don't know what to do with her," the bereaved father said.
"She just stands there staring at the sky. She follows her grandmother everywhere bless herâ¦I know she needs a doctor but we simply don't have the money now."
Zinjibar has been the site of regular clashes between army troops and militants of Al-Qaeda-linked group Ansar Al-Sharia.
The militants seized on the political unrest in Yemen in the past months to consolidate their grip on the southern city.
A US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, Yemen has allowed Washington to launch drone strikes on militants who regrouped there after suffering reverses in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
God Help Us
Having taken shelter into his brother's house, Mohamed decied it was time to move out of Zinjibar.
"We fled with nothing but a few blankets and some clothes," Mohamed told OnIslam.net.
"We had only one car and 13 people to fit inside, my brother, his wife, my mother our 9 children and myself," added the helpless man, who arrived in a school-turned shelter on the outskirt of the sea-port city of Aden after a perilous journey, accompanied by thousands of families.
Crammed in one little room without running water or easy access to amenities since they had to share one toilet with 10 other families, Mohamed tried to accommodate his relatives the best he knew how.
With little to no money, traumatized children, a mourning heart and the fear of tomorrow, Mohamed turned to God, begging Him to give him the strength to pull through.
"There was time we could not even feed the children anymore, so we stopped eating keeping the bread for the little ones and my mother," Mohamed said.
"When my mum started coughing, I had to beg for money for the 1st time in my life," added the helpless man in a breaking voice.
"I am a proud man, I did ask if someone was willing to give me a jobâ¦any job."
Helping him, Mohamed's neighbor offered him some baby milk formula to exchange for medicine to treat his mother.
"His kindness amazed me especially since I knew he had a newborn baby," he said.
Trying to alleviate their suffering, refugees started to cooperate together.
"When one could find work he would buy bread and rice. The women would cook and take care of the kids, regardless of whether they were their own," Mohamed said.
Despite his endless suffering, Mohamed is helping an orphan, whose father has passed away.
"I know his family and when it is safe he will return home with me. Hopefully someone will come for him, if not he will have a home with us, he is my charge."
Stricken by poverty and death, the Yemeni refugees never lost confidence that God will end their suffering.
"We are all from Abyan," said Abdullah Zayed, a retired school teacher.
"If we do not help each others who will? We owe it to our sons and daughters, this tragedy will make us stronger."In God we trust and we believe. If we believe in His mercy, He will never abandon us. As people before us, we are faced with a choice, rising above misery and embrace God's words or fall stricken by anger. We chose the light. Abyan chose the light, he added with a quiet smile.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net