Beirut, 06:07.

Twelve months later, I can finally articulate my personal experience of the Beirut explosion.

Artists from the group REK paint a mural depicting the city with the word “HOPE” on September 4, 2020, one month after the August 4 massive blast. JOSEPH EID / AFP

On August 4, 2020, at 6:07 pm, my city exploded. I was traveling South Turkey, taking a break from all the problems Beirut overwhelmed me with. I was planning to watch the sunset by the sea when the news hit me. Messages started to flood one by one, asking if I am ok; if I am safe.

I felt incredibly guilty and never even mentioned that I am not in Lebanon. I answered that I was in the mountains, far away from the explosion, and that I didn’t even hear it. I said: “I am safe but extremely heartbroken.”

I couldn’t breathe. My people lost their homes and their loved ones while I am in a peaceful sea town. What do I do? I can’t even send money because there’s capital control on our bank accounts. I am not sure if I should go back because I had just left and it is not that easy to travel during Covid.

The next day, I looked at pictures of all the Lebanese people gathering to clean the streets and assess the damages. The guilt was devouring me. I needed to have a role in this!

Then magic happened… My best friend, Beatrice Maneshi, who’s Iranian American but had lived previously in Beirut and calls it her second home, contacts me saying that she’s thinking of ways to help; maybe start a fundraiser that we host together using her bank account.

Friends, when well-made, are angels sent from heaven to support our earthly journey. This little thought that turned into action was a true miracle. It didn’t just save me from a forever guilt trip, but it also helped many more.

In few minutes, Beatrice sets a Facebook donation page, and wow! People started to send money from all over the world.

What’s even more amazing was that strangers I had met during my travels for a few minutes were checking on me and pitching in. Faces & names that I barely know looked up my contact and asked how they can help.

In parallel, my younger sister, Christina Sfeir, was back home doing her part on the ground: Checking on families home by home, using her experience in interior design to fix broken houses, preparing food boxes with friends, securing medicines prescriptions, and distributing clothing donations.

Ten days later, we gathered around $15,000.
Perhaps the amount is not big, but it’s huge coming from people with medium wages who went out of their way to help.

Three months later, we supported more than 400 people.

The whole world, from the Far East to the West, showed up for Lebanon.
Our story is only one small example of the compassion that the Lebanese people have experienced in the most painful event in our history. There are a million awful things to remember when thinking of the explosion. There’s so much pain and loss to digest. But looking back now, I think of the musician who donated his time to fix broken instruments damaged in the blast; the 93-year-old woman who made 100 dolls for traumatized children; and of course, nothing to be compared to the parents who lost their 3-year-old baby girl, and on Christmas eve cooked with their friends for families in need.

Looking back at the demolition of our beautiful beloved city, erasing the precious memories we created in every corner, killing our dreams, destroying our businesses, murdering our people, and traumatized our souls… I weirdly only think of small acts of love.

Looking back at the massive death toll, both physically and psychologically, I feel the pulse of life roaring loud, shaking the earth from underneath the rubble, telling a secret: “this is the pain you have to endure for the rebirth of a country.”

The past two years were the hardest to survive: Revolution, capital control, inflation, Covid-19, explosion… you name it. But all this craziness was met with lots and lots of love. Love to our land and people. Love of friendship. Love of humanity. Love won, love will always win, and Lebanon can tell the world about it.

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𝘈𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘷𝘶𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 & 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘯 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴.

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Michella Sfeir

Michella Sfeir

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