It’s past time to be shocked by Aleppo

In this frame grab taken from video provided by the Syrian anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), a child sits in an ambulance after being pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 17. Syrian opposition activists reported an airstrike on the al-Qaterji neighborhood in Aleppo late Wednesday. Aleppo Media Center, via AP

We are told today that this image of a little boy, hurt in the civil war that has leveled Aleppo in Syria, is shocking the world.

Shocked? Now what?

There is nothing about Aleppo and one of the most brutal wars ever fought on this planet that has shocked the world, at least enough for the world to much notice.

That’s the takeaway from Aleppo. The world — we all — have gotten pretty accustomed to looking the other way.

This isn’t the first image of the brutality of the civil war in Syria and its impact on children.

There was this one from 2012, when a hospital full of children was bombed. A hospital.

Manu Brabo | AP File

And we moved on to other things while more hospitals were bombed and more children murdered.

Manu Brabo | AP

Ninety-five percent of the doctors who were in Aleppo have left, NPR reported in June.

Ben Taub, of the New Yorker, valiantly tried to stir the world in an article and an appearance on NPR, describing the work of Dr. David Nott, who has been working in war zones for 20 years and has been trying to get the world to notice what’s happening in the one he’s in now.

But after these five siblings came into the ward and they had really truly horrific injuries, the stuff of nightmares. So this boy came into the ward, you know, in loosely-connected pieces.

He had no pelvis, and he was still alive. He was looking around the room silently, unable to make a noise. So (reading) the boy was dying. There was no treatment. He had lost too much blood, and his lungs had filled with concrete particles.

Nott held his hand for four agonizing minutes. All you can do is just comfort them, he told me. I asked him what that entailed since the hospital had exhausted its supply of morphine. He began to cry and said all you can hope is that they die quickly.

That was in June, three years after Nott first told his story on PRI’s The World.

Just three weeks ago, NPR’s All Things Considered aired one of the most horrifying accounts of the war I’ve ever heard. Dr. Samer Attar, a Chicago surgeon, had just returned from volunteering in Aleppo.

He called it a catastrophe because we’ve run out of words in the English language to properly describe what’s happening.

I still keep thinking about this little girl I took care of. She was one of the last people I operated on. She was around 8.

She had her hand blown up from a bomb, and it was right after a big massacre where the emergency room was flooded with people. And all the operating rooms were full, and some people were having operations done in the hallway.

Everyone knew that Castello Road might get cut at some point, but I didn’t know it was going to be happening right around the time I was there.

The road was closed and Aleppo was cut off so that more people could be trapped and killed by the bombing.

I listened as I drove home from work. I wasn’t shocked; I was ashamed. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard of the massacre that’s still underway.

It wasn’t the first time I moved on to other things.

It wasn’t the first time I did nothing to help stop it.

It wasn’t the first time I wondered what level of horror must be reached before I do.

Related: The World Is Failing the Injured Children of Aleppo (Time)