As I am writing this, I am struggling to keep my hands steady. If you are reading this, please keep Lebanon and the Lebanese people in your prayers.
Beirut, Lebanon — August 04, 2020, 6:00 p.m.
I decided to pay my family a visit. They lived in Jdeideh, on the coast of Metn, about twenty minutes from the Port of Beirut by car.
I sat on the couch, my legs stretched forward. Facing me was my cousin Christelle and my brother’s girlfriend, Vanessa. My mother and aunt sat a little farther on a separate couch, sipping on their traditional Turkish coffee and talking about the ever-inflating prices. It seemed as though this was all the Lebanese people could talk about lately, as the country spiraled into economic oblivion.
We browsed for some pairs of denim jeans online. Our jaws dropped, not at how nice these pairs of jeans looked, rather at how one single pair of jeans went from costing around 40 US Dollars to the equivalent of 150 US dollars at the current rate.
“I want to leave the country,” I said in a quick text to my boyfriend.
— Me too, babe, but why are you saying this now?”
Truth be told, I had no idea. I was always adamant about staying and not giving up on my country. But at that very moment, all I could think of was how badly I wanted out.
“I don’t know. I feel like I am suffocating.”
That’s when I felt the ground shake beneath my feet before hearing what sounded like a small explosion.
Silence. Utter silence.
We held our breath and looked at each other, perplexed.
“What was that?” asked Aunt Nicole.
— Turn on the t.v., It could be another clash between Israel and Hezbollah.”
We stood up and walked towards the balcony as my cousin opened the glass door. “Did you hear anything?” I said in another quick text to Moe.
The ground started shaking again, only stronger this time. The seconds stretched before we were all hit with a blast so strong it knocked us all to the ground.
The next thing I heard was wailing. My aunt screamed as she curled up into a ball and pulled on her own hair. My mom rushed to the stairs. Vanessa fumbled for her phone to call my brother, while Christelle called her father to make sure he was alive.
I rushed to my aunt. “Don’t be scared. Relax. Breathe. These are just Israeli planes raiding Hezbollah strongholds.”
After all, we were used to that, Us the Lebanese; It is our sad reality. Stuck in between, bearing the brunt of a conflict that does not, in any way, resemble us, a conflict that does, by no means whatsoever, reflect our love for life, our ambition, and our ability to thrive, no matter the circumstances.
This, however, was beyond any of the atrocious tragedies we became so familiar with in this country’s deplorable existence. This . . . well, this was our knockout.
This is what hell must feel like . . .
Our phones started ringing. Rumors spread like wildfire. Was it a bomb? If so, who was the target? Little did we know that we were all victims this time around.
Videos of the blast made international headlines within minutes. Hospitals were either destroyed or at full capacity, also within minutes.
Emergency rooms in local hospitals, or what was left of them at least, witnessed something unprecedented. In a country that boasts one doctor for every ten patients, we needed more doctors!
Damaged hospitals around the city begged and pleaded with the authorities to have their patients evacuated. Doctors stitched people up in the parking lot, under the light of their phones, as operation rooms and hospital beds were reduced to rubble.
Needless to say, no Lebanese got a minute of sleep that night. Whether you were injured, lost a loved one, or are still searching for them; whether you were displaced or not harmed in any way, we all died last night, we all felt as though we had lost someone.
I personally no longer have the breath nor the energy to speculate. Pre-meditated attack or not, the trauma is real. An explosion that was heard all the way in Cyprus just rocked our beloved capital, Beirut, and its suburbs.
They say 2020 has been hell, but 2020 has been a whole other level of hell for Lebanon. But as we struggle to cope with a pandemic, survive an economic meltdown, and wrap our heads around what just happened, we will open our eyes tomorrow and drag ourselves with a heavy heart to Beirut.
We will bury our victims and rebuild our homes. We will clean up the streets and help the wounded. Christian, Muslim, Druze, or whathaveyou, we will rush to help, because that is just who we are, and this is simply what we do.
Throughout history, Beirut was destroyed and rebuilt seven times. The eighth one will not be any different. How do we manage to do this? I don’t know. Solidarity? Hope? I genuinely have no clue.
All I know is that the sun will shine on us once again. I don’t know when or how. All I know is that the sun will shine, on that tiny Mediterranean country with 350 days of sunshine, on that bunch of cedar trees always taking the world by storm.
By Jennyfer Jaber
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