Time August 31/September 7, 2020 pp52-57 |World| “After the Explosion” “Abandoned by the government that left a bomb on their doorstep, Beirut tries to summon the energy for change. By Karl Vick. Photographs by Myrian Boulos
Article is supplemented with 12 story-telling photographs-see the article to fully appreciate.
“’We deserve better’ Nour Saliba (F/27)…I only lost my home. I am one of the lucky ones who still have their family and friends by their side…we are all traumatized, but we are also burnt-out.”
“For three decades, the most reliable of feature of Lebanon’s government was its relentless decline.” So bad, so corrupt that in 2015 the World Bank declared the country was “increasingly governed by bribery and nepotism practices, failing to deliver basic human services.” Sadly, Lebanon’s constitution serving 18 separate religious sects was designed to “balance the interests and needs of a diverse, cosmopolitan nation” has resulted in a government of “self-dealing elites in political parties that look after themselves, rather than a greater good.” Even prior to the pandemic “the country’s economy [was] in free fall, and almost half the 6.8 million residents (including 1.5 million Syrian refugees) lived in poverty.” Local residents not government services extinguished forest fires. Along comes “one of the largest man-made (nonnuclear) explosions in global history.” The ignition of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate that had carelessly resided in a port warehouse since 2013 impacted a six-mile perimeter releasing 1/10 the power of the Hiroshima detonation killing 220 and devasting the homes of 300,000 in “three neighborhoods: a poor district east of the port; an enclave of Armenian Christians; and a gentrifying zone of older residents and young, artsy people.” People drawn together by the event came together to help.
In a revolving door government, the Prime Minister resigned six days after the blast “saying he wanted to stand with the people.” A day after his resignation the city heard a “muslin call to prayer, and the peal of church bells.” “Let us hope that this catastrophe doesn’t destroy us even further but rather give us much needed strength” says resident Jad Estephan.