Tuesday August 4th, 2020 marked yet another catastrophe in a chain that crippled Lebanon in 2020. This one however tops any single bad event the country had experienced in its history. The port of Beirut, the country’s lifeline exploded. Whether intentional or not the result is the same. Utter destruction of life and property.
Lebanon was in the midst of its worst financial crisis with the collapse of its economy. Add hunger as people can’t get their money from the bank to pay for necessities, add unemployment, add Covid, now add the cutting off of its lifeline. As usual the official narrative offers more questions than answers: An “accidental” explosion of 2,750 tons of Ammonium Nitrate that happened to be stored in the port when a welding mishap took place. If we were to entertain for a second that this story may be true and that the chemicals had indeed been stored in the port’s #12 hangar for 6 years, then there should be immediate criminal arrests. Who permitted the storage of such lethal chemicals in the middle of our densely populated capital right in the center of where people work, walk and play? Who paid the rent on the warehouse? Why were the chemicals allowed onto Lebanese soil in the first place? Were they actually confiscated or was Lebanon their intended destination all along? How long were they to remain there?
It was difficult to hold my tears this morning as I scanned one obituary after another, as I looked at photos of injured Lebanese rushing to nearby hospitals, as I heard the pleas of hospital doctors urging them to go elsewhere because they were at capacity, as I helplessly watched videos of sheer destruction in my childhood neighborhood, my old school, my home city. In a matter of seconds, Beirut was taken aback to a worse reality than the one I grew up in during the civil war. It was like stepping into a scary movie, only the disaster was real.
My family emigrated from Lebanon in the early eighties. I recall the moment we set sail like it was yesterday. We left from this very port, I had written “as the ship pulled away from shore and floated further down the Mediterranean, the sound of explosions faded away. The sights of my country became smaller as my tears grew bigger”. Leaving is not forgetting. We carry Lebanon in our heart and there, our birth country remains for the rest of our days, nostalgically tugging at our heartstrings with every breaking news. I was not in Beirut to experience the fear and agony but my heart felt as if it were there. It sank as I watched the horrifying explosion. I spent the rest of the day switching helplessly from one media channel to another, frantically looking for news of my family. Trying to discern any clue that might explain the inexplicable. Destiny can be so cruel. With no fault of your own, one second your life is ahead of you full of hopes and dreams only to escape in the next leaving your body buried under the rubles.
I have no proof but my gut tells me this was no accident. Like every Lebanese, I have my suspicions. It is human nature to want to blame someone for every disaster. It makes the pain more bearable. The blame game however won’t feed Lebanon’s hungry, heal its injured bury its dead, house its homeless or rebuild its ruins. I urge you to reach deep into your heart, and find a way to help through prayers and financial contributions to a trusted Lebanese NGO.
There is a Lebanese saying I heard often growing up. It was our way of coping with bad news, I think. “Don’t hate anything, it may have happened for the better”. It is difficult to imagine what kind of good may result of yesterday’s disaster. My friends have been messaging asking if my family is ok. Thankfully my family members were not physically hurt in the explosion, however they -as well as the rest of the Lebanese are far from OK. I pray the world does not turn a blind eye on Lebanon. It is time the Lebanese stop merely surviving and start living. Dare we dream for something better?
Featured photo on top of this blog borrowed from The Atlantic . Bottom photo source Facebook post