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There’s a large, old apartment building one town over. It’s the oldest place around. Old brick, old heating, old beautiful architecture.

Lots of families live there, and it’s pretty diverse. Still, folks have gotten along pretty well for the most part since the building went up.

One of the most interesting thing about the apartment is the consistency of it. The same families have lived in their respective flats for decades and decades. Generations have passed through this building. Parents passing flats and everything in them to their children, who pass it on to their children, and so on going as far back as anyone can remember. It’s those families that, when a rare child left the building to set out on his own, laid the groundwork for all the other towns around, including mine.

There’s a lot of history in that building.

A few times in the last hundred years or so there have been some scary situations. Powerful storms mostly, some crumbling walls, asbestos, even some fires.

What’s the thing the residents always say when the alarms go off, when they have to evacuate?

“We saved our children, of course. And we saved our photo albums and family heirlooms. These are the important things.”

A lot of people say that. They say they’d save their pictures, their mother’s necklace, their father’s watch, the family Bible. These are the thing that, when other material treasures fade, remind us who we are, where we’ve come from, what’s important. This is the family lore. History. Society.

But something terrible happened last night.

Arsonists and murderers came and set fire to the building. They killed some of the people who couldn’t escape and then went room-to-room burning things. Then they bulldozed the ash heap.

The photo albums, the family heirlooms, the symbols and memories and history of the residents were destroyed forever.

These are things you can’t get back.

And now the people who escaped watch the smoldering ashes of every earthly thing that connected them to their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. All the reminders of the past just burn.

And the town’s firemen can’t stop the flames in time.

* * *

The apartment building is called Iraq and Syria. The residents are Arabs and Kurds, Chaldeans and Armenians, Christians and Muslims and Yazidi. The arsonists and murderers are ISIS, who are systematically destroying the relics of the world. They have obliterated Hatra, Jonah’s Tomb, the Mosul Museum and Library, Khorsabad, and now Nimrud.

And with the annihilation of the stone memory-keepers of humanity, so too is ravaged the history of all of us, and the treasures of the birthplace of civilization.

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