Almost four months passed… Life has changed… Yet nothing major was done.
August 4th 2020 was supposed to be a normal day. However, it turned out to be a day that all the Lebanese especially the ones living in Beirut will never forget.
I was at work. Since Coronavirus started spreading, we were teleworking but had the possibility to go to the office if needed. Actually, the electricity problems were increasing since the economical crisis started. So I decided to work from the office on that day.
The situation in Lebanon was tough. Personally, I was expecting a big event to happen. I thought that we will definitely have more manifestations and maybe the assassination of some politician. But I never thought that they could blow up a whole city.
I was working and looking forward for my vacations in 10 days. I took a break to see my friend Dalia that I haven’t seen since February. So we went to the terrace of the cafeteria at 5:45 pm (all the windows were just up) and I was telling her that I was struggling whether to stay or to go abroad. I didn’t want to leave at any cost. I want to make sure that I will be happy wherever I go. Plus, I was telling her how much I appreciate being in the EMC NGO and that as long as I am in Lebanon, I want to be active. It was one poetic moment…
We went back to our desks at 6:00 pm almost. At 6:08 pm, in around 6 seconds, nothing was the same anymore.
We heard a very big explosion at 2 stages. We were at the 15th floor. We got really scared. We directly went away from the windows. Some colleagues were in the meeting rooms that got broken and doors fell on them. Thank God, the injuries were minor.
But to tell you the truth, although it was scary, I thought it was near and targeting a politician. I thought it was like the one of the Rafik Hariri’s assassination.
I helped my manager get his eyeglasses and we looked in the direction of Beirut and everything seemed a chaos. It was a mixed feeling. I couldn’t hold my tears…
We took the stairs and went down and checked on everyone. Here the journey started. The streets were a total mess. The glass and broken pieces were everywhere. People were driving like crazy.
I will never forget while driving how I was seeing people covered all with blood, some of them were on motorcycles trying to reach a near hospital. I was driving and calling the family and friends to make sure they are alright. One of my direct reports asked to leave early few minutes before the explosion. He was in the middle of the glass shower but he wasn’t injured. Thank God I was able to reach most of them. My mom was crying over the phone: “Nadine, the apartment is a whole mess. Everything is broken. You can’t imagine the situation… Stay safe where you are… Don’t leave before everything is stable”.
Although, I had tears earlier, I was kind of calm. Actually, I didn’t know what really happened. I arrived home and here was the surprise. 🙂 We have 6 old 4m interfaces of windows and doors that were broken. I repeated the joke to everyone who contacted me: We had a “Salon”… Now we have a “Balcon”! It wasn’t a joke. We were shocked. Our neighbor was hurt and his blood was in front of his fully broken door.
Many friends were calling. After each message and call, I was realizing that the damage is not only in our area. We didn’t watch the news as we were busy cleaning. Yes, some people were not able to even start before understanding what happened but from our side, we couldn’t stand still.
My brother works in Gemmayzeh and his car was parked there. He thought that it was near too and he didn’t imagine that we were all impacted. His main big door was broken into pieces and his colleagues were saved because they moved quickly far from windows. He tells me that Gemmayzeh was a complete war zone on that day.
It took us few hours before realizing that we should check on my mom’s shop, my brother’s apartment, etc… We went to Gemmayzeh at 11pm and I can’t find words to describe how my heart was aching at that moment. I will never forget how we were asked to help bringing down an old lady from her 6th floor’s broken apartment. Imagine how many like her were stuck.
We then realized that it was an explosion that affected the whole city. The main damaged areas were Beirut Port, Mar Mikhael, Karantina, Gemmayzeh, Achrafieh, Saifi… It reached much more.
I have my aunts & cousins in the area. I have lots of friends. For me, the damaged area is not only my city but my village. They blew up the dearest part of my heart.
That night, we didn’t sleep a minute. I couldn’t stay in my room that is now a balcony. I was afraid of the next days news. Such explosion cannot happen without any death news or missing people. I was checking the list of victims and missing people every hour that night. Actually, one of my friends was not replying and I was worried about him.
I can go on and on about many stories I heard around me and that affected me a lot. But I will cut it short and focus about the lessons that this blast taught me.
1- Six seconds can destroy everything
Everything you built in years, can be destroyed in few seconds and without your control. Our life turned upside down in 6 seconds and 3 months later, we are still fixing the material damages but our soul needs much more time to be fixed.
My heart always aches when I think about the people who lost loved ones… Nothing could make them return…
2- Everyone has a story: You think it happened to you only
Everyone has a story that starts with: “If I was still there, If I was sitting here, If I had work that day, I passed through this road everyday…”
- If I was at home and not at work, the whole interface would have fell on my head.
- If my mom stayed late at the shop, we barely think she could have survived. A block of more that than 30 kg fell on her empty chair.
- My aunt survived after the glass of the window fell on her and her neighbor
- My other aunts were at the village and they could have been very hurt if they were in their Apartment in Achrafieh.
- You should listen to the people of Gemmayzeh how they tell their stories. I was cleaning my mom’s shop for a week there and I was able to listen to many of them.
- I got at least 3 friends injured that were touring the devastated hospitals to be helped. Two of them were treated without anesthesia. I think they suffered the most after the people who lost loved ones. Christy, Hanine, Hassan, you are real heroes! I am sure there were many others that were injured.
3- We almost died and we could lose each other anytime
204 people were confirmed dead in the region where we live, work and party. It could have been anyone of us.
This makes me rethink why we are always busy, angry, tired in life to achieve ourselves and we are apart from our loved ones, when Life can simply end in few seconds.
4- I will never forget many of the victims
I was disappointed by the president (No politics here) when he was not able to remember any names of the victims.
How can I forget that my school friend Maria lost her mom and my other school friend Rita lost her husband after delivering her second baby. I feel very helpless not to be there for them.
How can I forget the cutest Alexandra Najjar (6 years old), or the full of Life Sahar Fares and her firemen colleagues who were sent to death.
How can I forget Rawan the waitress from Cyrano, Jean Marc Bonfils the brilliant architect.
How can I forget the tears of Joe Akiki’s mom or the ones of Elias Khoury’s parents and many more.
How can I forget the foreigners who came to work here and they were killed in a very brutal way.
I am sure I missed many. Your stories will be engraved in my heart.
5- I felt good while sending the broken glass for recycling
Despite all the tragedy, some people were aware enough to remind us to learn from the 1975 war and think about transforming this tragedy to a very tiny positive thing. Thanks to the team of Ziad ABI CHAKER whom I am proud of, while cleaning the mess, I decided to send the broken glass for recycle!
It was therapeutically amazing!
6- Some friends are priceless
On a positive note, I can’t be more grateful for friends who showered my WhatsApp in messages and calls. I cannot be more blessed for friends who asked about me every single day. I loved how we were checking up on each other.
I had friends helping in finding solutions to close my mom’s shop so it won’t be stolen. I had friends helping me find carpenters, people to fix the glass, the doors, etc… friends helping in the cleaning, friends sending messages constantly…
I had dear friends who didn’t want me to miss my birthday and brought me a cake home! I received many beautiful messages on that day that made me literally cry the whole day!
7- You are stronger than you think
When I think about all the broken places we had to deal with, I would have never thought that we will be able to stand on our feet again. We didn’t finish yet but we are on track.
This was the first time in my life where I had to follow up on most of the work done. I can now officially follow up on any renovation or a construction work like a Boss. 🙂 It is funny although very tiring!
I couldn’t have done it without my mom and my brothers! But I can say that I am definitely impressed by myself.
I still have an aching heart but we survived one of the biggest explosion in Beirut and I am happy about this!
Four months later, I always feel grateful that neither I or any of my loved ones were injured. We had many broken places to deal with. It wasn’t fun at all. But I prefer living this than having to worry about a missing member of my family or an injured one.
But I have to admit I am not fully recovered. I feel angry, sad, anxious… In almost one year, Lebanese lost a lot! I hope that we will able to rescue our future.
Whenever I think that I will have to leave home, my heart is shattered. The love of this country is a curse. I will have it in my heart wherever I go. Plus I cannot feel happy to be somewhere else whereas my family members are still here in danger!
I won’t ask any government (Not even our corrupted politicians) to take actions as I don’t trust them anymore. This year was a test for Humanity for me personally. It opened my eyes on many things happening in my country and the world.
God have pity on us! Help! We cannot take it anymore!