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Flames rise from the scene of an explosion Monday morning at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baghdad.
Flames rise from the scene of an explosion Monday morning at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baghdad. (Ron Jensen / S&S)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Two Stars and Stripes employees narrowly escaped tragedy when the Al Rasheed Hotel was hit by multiple rockets Sunday morning.

Robert Reismann and Thomas Bowman, who are in the Iraqi capital to oversee the printing and distribution of the newspaper, were unharmed in the attack that killed an American lieutenant colonel and wounded 15 other people.

Bowman, a former soldier, was asleep when he heard the first rocket hit the hotel, and then saw the second round of rockets on its way from the improvised portable launcher about 550 yards away.

“I looked out my window and actually saw flames with dots in them coming our way,” he said.

Yelling “incoming” to alert others, Bowman left his second-floor room and sought shelter in the stairwell. He said it was hard to tell how long the barrage lasted. Two seconds can seem like a long time in such a circumstance, he said, but he guessed 20 to 30 seconds.

“It just wouldn’t stop. They just kept coming,” he said.

When it did stop, he heard someone on the third floor yelling for a medic. That’s where Reismann was staying, so he ran up the steps and banged on his colleague’s room.

Reismann said he was awake and about to get out of bed when he heard the rockets slam into the hotel. He rolled under his bed for protection and heard something — perhaps a rocket that didn’t explode — skid along the floor outside his room.

They both raced back down the stairs that were by then covered in the blood of the wounded being taken away.

Bowman used some of his soldier’s lifesaving training to help until medics arrived, checking for mass bleeding and trying to calm the injured. He got blankets from the reception desk to make them comfortable and warned others not to give the injured any water, which many were doing.

“Everybody was helping everybody,” Bowman said.

The hotel has been emptied, but Bowman and Reismann said officials have said they will be back there in three or four days.

Both said they will have reservations about going back to the hotel, but Bowman said, “I’ll go where they tell me.”

Reismann said he hopes the security measures have improved by the time they return to the hotel.

“Maybe it will get better in the next couple of days,” he said.

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