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My Beloved Achrafieh in Beirut, Lebanon

I love reading and writing. I came to writing late in life and discovered a world where I feel like a fish in the water.

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One-Year Anniversary

August 4, 2021, is the one-year anniversary of the tragedy that befell Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon.

The Lebanese population in general, and the families of the victims in particular, are marching to Ground Zero at 6:07 in the early evening, the exact time of the blast a year ago.

There is so much anger, rage, and grief among the Lebanese that I cannot help but feel emotional. Corruption and evading justice still prevail among the elite there who sucked the country dry.

God help the Lebanese in Lebanon.

The People of Lebanon Are Grieving

I cried like a child on Tuesday, August 4th of 2020, when I saw on television the massive explosion in Beirut. My tears sprung from shock, helplessness, sadness, and anger.

The August 4th blast caused terrible destruction, apocalyptic scenes, and a heavy human toll with more than 200 dead and 6,000 injured.

Beirut Will Not Die

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Resorting to Humor

The crisis faced by the people of Lebanon is so bad that the people are turning to humor in addition to protesting.

President of the Republic: ”We're going to hell.”

Minister of Energy: ”We're heading to complete darkness.”

Minister of Internal Affairs: ”We're heading to chaos.”

Minister of Health: ”We're heading to a catastrophe.”

Lebanese people: ”Will you please decide where we're heading so we know what to wear.” —March 2021.

Dreaming a Lebanon in Peace

I am dreaming a new Lebanon into Being. This is my prayer for a Lebanon to be reborn in peace, in perfect health, and in abundance.

There is a realm in-between worlds where we can dream a bright future for Lebanon and Lebanese and bring this bright future into the present moment.

Will you join me in this prayer?

—March 2021.

Achrafieh District of Beirut

I spent my last four years of schooling at a public school in the Achrafieh district of Beirut. I loved Achrafieh, especially because it was the home of two lifelong friends: Samira and Gloria.

It is in Achrafieh where I finished my high school years, held a job, first learned how to meditate, fell in love, and where I spent a good chunk of the day. So many memories!

Most of Achrafieh’s beautiful places and homes were destroyed on August 4th. Its old grand palace Sursok took quite a blow. One of the schools I went to as a teenager was on Sursok street.

Lebanese Christians in general are resilient folks who lived through many wars and tragedies, but the August 4th blast and its aftermath were and still are more than they can bear. Their homes, their families, their workplaces, their educational institutions, their religious institutions, their livelihoods, and their lives were either destroyed or lost by this ridiculous tragedy.

Lebanon is facing major economical, political, social and security issues. The situation on the ground is worsening.

broken glass in my sister's apartment

broken glass in my sister's apartment

I used to play with my niece's children in this small room.

I used to play with my niece's children in this small room.

My Sister and my Niece

Less than an hour after the blast, I had confirmation that my sister, my niece and her family were safe. My sister, who lives in eastern Beirut, had her apartment’s doors knocked off their hinges and her windows shattered. Thankfully, she was unharmed by the blast.

My sister’s neighbour was sleeping when the blast happened. The windows glass of her bedroom shattered and fell on her back.

My niece felt the earth shake and thought it was an earthquake. She and her family live at a distance of 30 kilometers away from Beirut.

My sister was shaken by the blast like so many of the Beirutis who are reliving the horror of that day. For a while, even a small sound made her jump and her heart race. She is counting on prayer to stop reliving the moment of the double explosion and to heal.

The psychological impact is unbearable. The people of Lebanon are feeling dizzying anger and devastating sadness.

Lebanese Expatriates

The Lebanese expatriates are in shock, grief, and despair. We feel hopeless and helpless when it comes to our cherished Lebanon.

As the Lebanese-Belgium actor and director Roda Fawaz says it so well, being Lebanese is a job, not a citizenship. A permanent job that is transmitted from generation to generation with its joys, heartaches, stories and traumatic experiences. You have to keep working at it. ... Being Lebanese means going from hope to despair, back to hope to despair. Lebanese people cannot escape Lebanon wherever they go. Those who worship the land of Lebanon cannot live there and have to leave. Those who live in Lebanon curse it but cannot leave.

Some Lebanese expatriates are helping by sending money to relatives living in Lebanon. Others are helping by raising funds for the non-profit organizations on the ground in Lebanon that they trust much more than the government. Many will make sacrifices to help and let the people of Lebanon know that they are not alone.

It is the awful feeling of having been abandoned that is the cause of anger and rage in Lebanon.

—August 2020.

Samira’s Story

Today, I was able to chat with my friend Samira. I still have to connect with Gloria, but I heard that she is fine.

I translated here my friend's words from Lebanese-Arabic and did my best to faithfully reflect the emotions behind the words. Her house is close to the port of Beirut and was badly affected by the blast.

For a week now, since that ill-fated Tuesday, I have not been able to say good morning to anyone because anger is swelling in me. Anger can be greater and more violent than feeling good,

Or maybe because I feel we are still alive by chance,

Or it could be because what happened is greater than anything anyone could have imagined,

Or maybe because I never thought a day would come when I’ll hear the screams of my children and my neighbors, or see them in such a situation,

I lived many days of war, but not once was the feeling of disappointment and pain shown on the faces of people in my neighborhood like this, like what I am feeling now,

Or it could be because the neighborhood, the streets, the people and their nice homes that are several generations old, their people and their memories were destroyed in a second ...

Just a week ago, they were sitting in front of their homes. I would say good morning and good evening as I pass by and I would hear their greetings in return. Since that day, I have not seen any of them, not after the ambulance teams came to treat their wounds,

Goodness was absent that day and is missing with their absence, and hope has become minuscule.

Even the blessings of these old houses were taken from me that day.

Here, for years they have lived in these houses and on this street, their parents, and grandparents too. I did not know their names nor did they know mine, but wishing each other good morning and good evening was what brought us together.

The anger and ache in my heart are more than I can bear and is the reason for this narration ..

In an unforgettable moment.. all the screams and cries that I cannot stop hearing, and the image of the blast that I cannot forget. In a blink of an eye, many things have ended, and many stories have died. It was just a moment but the whole story ended."

I asked Samira if she wants me to convey a message to the world. Her answer was “for the fist time in my life, I am in a state of complete despair. I hide. I pretend that all is well but deep inside I feel abandoned and helpless in the face of the monster”.

Song for Beirut in Arabic by Nancy Ajram, Famous Lebanese Singer.

Statue of Hope and Power

If you visit Beirut, you will see a statue of hope and power erected close to ground zero of the blast.

Hayat Nazer, a Lebanese artist, created a 3-meter statue made from debris taken from the blast of August 4th. The statue shows the scarred face of a woman standing with messy hair blown by the wind. A broken clock sits at her feet. The hands of the clock point to 6:08 PM, the exact time of the blast. The statue is unidentified to represent every Lebanese woman affected by this tragedy. It is a statement of hope and power[i].

“I felt like Beirut was a woman who despite what she suffered is very strong,” Nazer said.

To Donate

To help the Beirut relief efforts, you can donate to the Red Cross, Save the Children, and other not-for-profit organizations. There are 300,000 homeless individuals with 100,000 children among them.

The Lebanese Red Cross has been on the ground since the disaster first struck. It is the main provider of ambulance services in Lebanon and has aided in search-and-rescue operations.You can make a one-time or monthly donation. Money raised will help support health facilities and other humanitarian needs in Lebanon, which will evolve based on emerging needs.

[i]“Lebanese Artist Turns Beirut-Blast Debris Into A Statue Of Hope & Strength” by Rim Zrein. the961.com

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Liliane Najm

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