The crater in the middle of the street. The buildings with facades torn off. The women weeping. The men with their bloody shirts. The surging panic. The children in hospitals. The elderly at the balconies looking out at a scene that seems oddly familiar.
One minutes was all it took. The trendy square got turned in sixty seconds into what it was more than twenty three years ago. Sixty seconds was all it took for fifteen people to lose their lives. Sixty seconds was all it took for a hundred people to get injured. Sixty seconds was all it took for children to become orphans, for wives to become widows, for mothers and fathers to become bereaved. Sixty seconds is all it took for the entire country to turn teary eyes and heavy minds towards its heart.
Achrafieh, bleeding, crying, hurting.
The volunteers of the Lebanese Red Cross ran to the scene. Everyone mobilized to get blood donors to hospitals. We did what we do best: our resiliency as a people was, yet again, put the test and we’ve come out triumphant. But at what cost?
How much more should we take of this incertitude? How much more should we accept not knowing if passing through a busy square would end up being the last thing you do in your life? How much more should we accept for our country to remain the playground of others in it?
And there’s nothing we can do.
Whenever Lebanon hurts, we as Lebanese hurt too – regardless of sect and of political affiliation. The hurt suddenly surpasses those barriers we erect against others who are different from us, albeit for only a brief period of time as we rush to help. And I usually had a resurgence of national pride in moments like these.
I feel proud of all the men and women who were brave enough to go down to ground zero and help the victims get to hospitals. I feel proud of all the men and women who left anything they were doing and went to the region’s hospitals to have a needle inserted through their veins in order for blood to gush out from their sustained bodies to needy ones. I feel proud of those who, if only for a day, decided to stop utilizing political rhetoric in order to prove a point and put Lebanon first. I feel proud today because we’re all lighting candles, calling our loved ones and the loved ones of others, we’re all donating, we’re all making sure that – despite all – we are okay.
But that’s only for today. Because tomorrow or the day after, business will be back to usual. And people will forget the names of those who died and those who got injured. People will forget a Sassine Square that looks anything but Sassine Square. People will forget that Achrafieh has been taken back to 1989 in only sixty seconds. People will want to forget because there’s just so much hurt that one people can take in a lifetime.
And I realize that, for the first time, in spite of the tragedy, I don’t feel a surge in national pride. All I can see as I look around me is an explosion that broke Lebanon like the promise of a nation that never seems to be able to come into proper existence. And I feel sad that even at the darkest hour, I cannot see a ray of light for us in the horizon.
I remember walking through the street that was blown up only a few days ago. I remember looking my friend in her eyes and smiling. I had missed her. I remember breathing in Lebanon and Achrafieh’s autumn air. I remember laughing at a joke next to a building that exists no more. That memory lingers but it’s long gone now. And we may feel okay. Lebanon may feel okay. Achrafieh may feel okay. But we’re not fine at all. Achrafieh is not fine at all. Lebanon is not fine at all.
Voting in 2013 either to current politicians or to aspiring activists won’t change this. This is a stillborn nation.
And I just want to tell you that it takes everything in me not to write something like this.