Beirut Explosion: 'I Was Bloodied and Dazed. Beirut Strangers Treated Me Like a Friend.'

Beirut Explosion: ‘I Was Bloodied and Dazed. Beirut Strangers Treated Me Like a Friend.’

Beirut Explosion: ‘I Was Bloodied and Dazed. Beirut Strangers Treated Me Like a Friend.’

Beirut Explosion: ‘I Was Bloodied and Dazed. Beirut Strangers Treated Me Like a Friend.’

BEIRUT — I was just about to look at a video a friend had sent me on Tuesday afternoon — “the port seems to be burning,” she said — when my whole building shook, as if startled, by the deepest boom I’d ever heard. Uneasily, naïvely, I ran to the window, then back to my desk to check for news.

Then came a much bigger boom, and the sound itself seemed to splinter. There was shattered glass flying everywhere. Not thinking but moving, I ducked under my desk.

When the world stopped cracking open, I couldn’t see at first because of the blood running down my face. After blinking the blood from my eyes, I tried to take in the sight of my apartment turned into a demolition site. My yellow front door had been hurled on top of my dining table. I couldn’t find my passport, or even any sturdy shoes.

Later, someone would tell me that Beirutis of her generation, who had been raised during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, instinctively ran into their hallways as soon as they heard the first blast, to escape the glass they knew would break.

I was not so well-trained, but the Lebanese who would help me in the hours to come had the heartbreaking steadiness that comes from having lived through countless previous disasters. Nearly all of them were strangers, yet they treated me like a friend.

When I got downstairs, dodging the enormous broken window that rested jaggedly in my stairwell, my neighborhood, with its graceful old-Beirut architecture and arched windows, looked like a picture from the wars I had seen from afar — a mouth missing all its teeth.

Someone passing on a motorbike saw my bloody face and told me to hop on. When we couldn’t get any closer to the hospital, our way blocked by hillocks of broken glass and stranded cars, I got off and started walking.

Everyone on the street seemed to be either bleeding from open gashes or swathed in makeshift bandages — all except one woman in a chic, backless top leading a small dog on a leash. Only an hour before, we had all been walking dogs or checking email or shopping for groceries. Only an hour before, there had been no blood.


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