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Beirut: The Explosion That Killed My Cousin and Spared the President

Hazem El Amin- Lebanese writer and journalist
August 5, 2020
This malignant explosion burnt all the stories of Beirut about itself, the corrupt parties and the elusive leaders, who are servants of their bosses inside and outside the country.

In the morning, we started to examine the houses of our friends that turned into rubble due to the explosion. Those houses where we have never been, because, in Beirut, we used to meet our friends in cafes, bars, and workplaces. Houses are those mysterious places where one of us goes when they’re done with their meetings or when their day is over. We used to be reluctant when one of our friends invited us to their homes. Now we are here after the explosion destroyed them. It seems like Mohammed Nejm’s house was beautiful. In Joud’s house, the fridge was driven into the living room by the explosion. And there is Ali, my cousin, who sent me photos of his house from Dubai after he received them from Beirut, telling me that his wife was in Beirut a few days before, she stayed at the house and left it like she always does when she leaves Beirut.

“Al-Nahar” newspaper’s building has been completely destroyed

The house of Rina Sarkis, our friend and the owner of one of the most beautiful houses in Beirut, also collapsed and got fragments and wounds in her body. I could not bring myself to call her, as her distress is doubled because she just got back to the city after constant traveling. Eyad, another cousin, was killed in the explosion. In the evening, I had to include this news as a detail while describing the full destruction scene, and to wait for the morning to start grieving for him. The emptiness left over from the explosion extended from Beirut to Ashrafieh. This space is exactly where we have our everyday life. It’s where we work, love, enrage, demonstrate and write pieces and live all kinds of stories with this city. In a few seconds, the exploded ammonium burned the air and left a void space, then the turbulent air pressure descended upon the buildings and the faces and scattered blood and glass all over the city. This explosion shattered Eyad’s face, destroyed Rina’s house, claimed the lives of about a hundred victims, and sent more than 3000 injured persons to hospitals.

In the morning, Beirut started to search for herself. Her son’s name is not among the names of the dead and the wounded! But where is he? Where did the explosion take him? Beirut started to check her body. We are sick of the ammonium numbness with the stories of burning still stuck in our heads. We are waiting for a president to commit suicide, or leave on the board of a ship, but they will not do so on their own. We have to do something to take revenge for our city. We know the name and address of those who caused its destruction. 

Beirut is no longer the same. Beirut now is nothing but the explosion caused by corruption and dependence. It’s Beirut that’s stuck with the blunt faces of its leaders. In the morning, I had to get back to wandering in the blighted neighborhoods, but I couldn’t. My balcony overlooks the south of the city, and the disaster took place in the north and the west. However, this was not enough to separate myself from the explosion. Eyad whom I used to meet occasionally in the blighted neighborhoods and exchange excuses with him died and left behind the memory of the man who used to accompany his nephew and say to me “This is Abdul-Latif”, happily, as if his late brother has returned to life. The explosion burnt out our childhood stories, and showed us how Beirut was so generous, how it embraced all our feelings, passions and differences. He was generous enough with us to the extent that Eyad would tell me “I am your cousin, and you don’t have to take my permission before you write your article” and I would reply with a smile and a kiss.

2700 tons of high explosives burnt a lot of stories and destroyed thousands of beautiful faces and homes. Only leaders and ministers survived this catastrophe. That’s because they are safe at their fortified palaces. They are already away from the everyday life in Alhamra, Mar Mikhael, Gemmayzeh and Ashrafieh. So many protests and claimants of their departure came out from those neighborhoods that hate them. The alleys leading to the commercial center are the same which people of Ashrafieh used to use to reach the Riad al-Solh square, chanting “All of them means all of them”. The explosion was like a revenge that was taken from us because of our attempts to rescue our country from the hands of those losers, corrupts and dependents. They destroyed our stories and new memories, and that’s the worst revenge. It’s the worst because a meeting that took place yesterday in “Bread Republic” bar is now an unrepeatable memory, and a building that was there for more than a hundred years in which Rina Sarkis, who dedicated her home for passersby from Mar Mikhael, resides, is now destroyed.

This malignant explosion burnt all the stories of Beirut about the city, the corrupt parties and the elusive leaders who are servants for their bosses inside and outside the country.

In the morning, Beirut started to search for herself. Her son’s name is not among the names of the dead and the wounded! But where is he? Where did the explosion take him? Beirut started to check her body. We are sick of the ammonium numbness with the burnt stories still stuck in our heads. We are waiting for a president to commit suicide, or leave on the board of a ship, but they will not do so on their own. We have to do something to take revenge for our city. We know the name and address of those who caused its destruction.

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