In Iraq, suicide car bombings occur on such a regular basis that only the ones that cause mass casualties are now covered in depth by the media. But as VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in Baghdad reports, even an attack that causes few casualties is an unforgettably frightening and deeply disturbing experience.
"There are casualties on the ground. Get doc! Captain Williams!"
Army Lieutenant Colonel John Norris calls urgently for the battalion medic, minutes after a thunderous explosion rocks eastern Baghdad.
"This is Tomahawk Six," said Colonel Norris. "I have got control of Doc Williams. We are moving, time now. Let us go!"
The sound of the explosion is familiar to Norris and his soldiers of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, who have been in Iraq for more than a year and have seen their share of unspeakable carnage and violence.
Norris orders his men to fan out and secure the area of the attack. He also reminds them that the threat of another deadly attack is far from over.
"Hey, be watching for suicide bombers, all right," he said. "You guys watch that mosque tower, okay?"
Stunned residents are stumbling out of their houses to see what has happened. An anxious Norris tells them the area is still not safe.
"Go inside! Go inside and close the gate," commands Colonel Norris.
One of the residents shows us a charred human foot, which he says flew into his backyard. His brother is holding what appears to be the remains of an arm.
Staring at the ground, we realize that bits and chunks of human flesh, organs, and other body parts have thoroughly mixed into the carpet of metal and concrete debris.
At the bomb site, a dozen Iraqi firefighters have arrived and are battling a blaze that is quickly engulfing what we are told is the main office building of al-Sabah newspaper.
A distraught eyewitness, Walid Razhi, screams out to no one in particular that he saw a suicide car bomber drive his vehicle to the main entrance and detonate.
Razhi says the bomber drove his blue pick-up truck back and forth several times on a side road before it turned into the parking lot of the three-story building. Razhi says he believes Sunni terrorists targeted al-Sabah because they view the newspaper as a propaganda tool of the Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi government.
Thick, black smoke is now pouring out of the building and it is clear the structure has been severely damaged. More than two dozen cars, some blown upside down by the blast, are smoldering in the parking lot. No one knows yet just how many people have been killed or injured.
The sound of an Iraqi woman in agony gets the attention of a U.S. soldier, who is struggling to keep local residents away from the bomb site.
Through a female interpreter, the soldier learns that the woman had left her three children in a house behind the al-Sabah building and she is desperate to get to them. Several dozen other Iraqis are also jostling to get past the soldier to check on families and relatives.
They plead with the soldier to let them through.
"They want to get in here," says the interpreter.
"I know that. I cannot let them in because there may be suicide bombers in here," replies the soldier.
Lieutenant Colonel Norris makes a decision to allow them through. But each person has to submit to a thorough body search because there is now fear that a suicide bomber may be hiding among them.
Meanwhile, Doc Williams, the army medic, moves among injured Iraqis to treat their wounds. Miraculously, none of the wounds are severe.
Doc Williams gives special care to a two-year-old girl, who is bleeding from a deep cut on her head.
She cries in the arms of her father, who is cradling her like an infant. Tearfully, he whispers to her, "I am sorry I brought you into such a violent world, my child. Please forgive me."