Trauma... Processing

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Pic courtesy of Joao Sousa

It's August 4, 2021 - 3:31am

I'm staring at my screen.

Struggling to find my words.

It's been a year since the blast rocked Beirut, killing more than 200 people, displacing so many more, wiping a large part of the city.

A whole year... 365 days...

I still remember how shocked I felt at 06:07pm on that day. How my first reaction was to grab my phone and check if the mobile network was still operational. How my heartbeat accelerated as I started calling family and friends to make sure they were alive. At that moment, it was survival mode on.


Don't think.

You will later.

If there is a later.

There will be.

Just breathe.

You will figure it out...

I had visualized a mental checklist of people to call. A million thoughts whirled through my mind. How I had changed my schedule at the last moment on that specific day and did not drive by the port around 6pm as I usually did on Tuesdays. How anxious I was to understand what had happened. How frantic I got when I couldn't reach my father on his mobile...

Weeping soldiers, picture found online, author unknown

If the first moments were robotic like, they were definitely not emotionless. They were quite the opposite. A flood of feelings were threatening to submerge me. My senses were fully wired. I gathered my spirits because that is how most of us Lebanese have learned to cope. See, I was born in 1978. The Civil War was raging. Our house was bombed several times. My mother always refused to take us down to shelters. She would try to explain bombings and terrifying sounds in a simple way for our little minds. My father had to move us out of the city for a short time at multiple instances to keep us safe, while he remained on the ground with the community. But we lived most of it in Sin el Fil, a suburb that could get quite "busy" at times. Is this why I rationalize every problem I encounter and try to find solutions before I allow myself to feel? Maybe. And yet, how can I ever express how that moment, and the ones that followed, felt, on Tuesday, August 4, 2020?

After I had made sure my siblings and parents were all safe, that most of my close friends, unfortunately not all of them, made it unharmed, my mind started racing. I had to do something. I contacted a friend, and we would attempt to drive as closely to the scene as possible. Even before reaching the area, a heavy, painful energy lingered in the air. My senses were on full alert mode. The tiniest squeak made me twitch. It was impossible to do much in the chaos that seemed to be reigning everywhere. Sirens could be heard from miles away. We drove away. We needed to plan what to do and be efficient. The sight of people covered with blood couldn't but trigger memories of the 1980's that had been long buried...

On Thursday, my friends and I met again. We left our cars somewhere in Ashrafieh and continued on foot towards Gemmayze to start with our small field contribution. The sight of the torn buildings, some just a mere structure somehow still standing, was simply tragic. It was quite tricky to move safely around. Debris were everywhere. The live streams had been shared a few moments after the blast and the views were apocalyptic. But it's quite a different impression when you are walking through such an aura. Confusion. Dismay. A poignant agony. Think of these and multiply them many fold. The once so vibrant city that attracted people from all over the world with its resilience and hospitality was crippled. Ripped to pieces. And it was, and still is, very very difficult to digest it.

For my published article after the Beirut blast in 2020, read here.

Artwork by Ivan Debs

The hardest part of all this remains that our government did not do much to provide with answers on what the hell had happened. Theories have been jotted left and right, with each side claiming it had the ultimate truth about the events. Sounds a bit like religious and/or political chieftains claiming what they say is the ultimate truth. When all the people want is justice. What has the government done to support its suffering citizens? Close to nothing. Has it actively looked for culprits? Not really. Will it hold whoever was responsible for such a massive / collective severe ordeal accountable? If the people's felons are not even tracked down, how can we expect a resemblance of justice? Will we ever know what truly happened on that fateful day?

Today, the people remind those hogging those, not only political seats, that we will NEVER forget. How can we ever forget, when those who remained alive feel dead inside and when the ones who left this world probably experience less pain and sorrow? Today, as a people, we demand to live in peace. We know we can live and thrive without your masquerades. We have suffered enough. Our, visible and invisible, scars from the beginning of time till date can attest to that. We are a people who want to live freely and in dignity. We do not care about your greedy strategies. Our culture is a culture of life, love and hope. And this is our authentic legacy to the world.

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An essay full of humanity and hopes.

Wirklich gut geschrieben, man kann den Schmerz in den Zeilen spüren und durch deine Vergleiche zu deiner Zeit des Aufwachsens bekommt man einen Eindruck wie solche Ereignisse sich anfühlen.

Schön sind deine Schlussworte - eure Kultur ist eine Kultur des Lebens, der Liebe und der Hoffnung.

Ich drücke die Daumen das der Wille des Aufbaus auch auf der politischen Ebene ankommt und nicht bloß stumpfe Worte und einige lieblose Taten den Anschein des Wiederaufbaus und erblühen lassens erwecken.

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