The world briefly stopped what it was doing yesterday when a photo of a Syrian boy who barely survived an airstrike in his hometown of Aleppo hit newspapers, television and the internet.
The five year-old, Omran Daqneesh, immediately became a symbol of the long, bloody civil war raging in Syria between President Bashar al-Assad's army and rebel forces. When asked about being an overnight celebrity, Omran smiled.
"Oh, come on," he chuckled. "Me? What about those American swimmers in Rio who pissed all over the bathroom floor and tore a door of its hinges? That's what you guys should be putting on page one. That's a real international incident, not a civil war in a country nobody else could find on a map even you spotted them an "S", a "Y" and an "R" and pointed their finger in the right direction!"
Asked if he was being overly-modest, Omran, brushing rubble out of his hair, replied, "Look, those swimmers just threw away a bundle in endorsement deals in five minutes. Me? I never had a shot, period. I'm five years old, this war is all I know. Those guys came this close to the good life, and dropped the ball, if I can mix sports metaphors."
"And I'm not trying to eat humble felafel here," Omran continued, as doctors rushed past him, attending to those even more seriously wounded. "Look at it from my point of view. Something like 400,000 Syrians have been killed in the last five years. Half the population are refugees somewhere else. I'm still alive with my parents. At least I think they're still alive, fingers crossed!" he laughed. Unable to physically cross his fingers due to his injuries, Omran added, "You get what I'm saying."
Informed that Kate Bolduan of CNN cried on air over video footage of the child, Omran shook his head. "A couple of things. First, that's pretty unprofessional behavior for a news anchor. Their job is to give the news, not pluck on heartstrings. Second, you know how many kids have been injured during this war? I'm just the one who got his picture taken. Call it the luck of the draw."
Apparently taken back by his own reaction, Omran coughed up some blood and quickly apologized for his outburst. "I'm sorry, I'm a little tired. I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in, oh, my entire life." Asked if he was angry, Omran said, "Angry? That's kind of pointless, right? Why should I be mad at your president and that lady who used to be secretary of state? I mean, I know they lit the fuse that blew up this whole country by saying 'Assad must go' -- and, by the way, it's 'al-Assad,' let's get that straight. But me sitting here saying, 'Oh, I hate you, Obama and Clinton!' -- that only hurts me. if I want to hurt them, there are better ways of doing it."
As interns came by with a stretcher, Omran told reporters, "In fact, if I survive the next 15 years, I'd like to visit America with some of my friends. We'd like to go to one of your important cities and see the big buildings. I hear you have a new World Trade Center! That would be very interesting to visit. Yes, you'll be hearing from us, if... if... oh what's the phrase?..."
Placed on the stretcher, the words came to him. "Oh yes, now I remember. Allah willing!" As he was whisked down the hall past dozens of injured Syrians, he called back, "Be on the lookout for us!"