Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tripoli In The Sky...

I was having my hurried mid-day snack in the kitchen when I saw him coming out of the washroom. A minute later, someone else came up to use the washroom after him. They were making ablution (“wudu”) I realized, getting ready for Friday Prayer. The bank closes for an hour during Friday’s noon-time prayer and so I went back downstairs to finish the pile of work pending on my desk. I was so wrapped up in reading an email on the computer that I merely heard the glass next to me shake. “Was that an explosion?” she asked me from the other side. “No,” I said mindlessly, and carried on. My phone rang, “Nour, did you hear the explosion?!” it was Mum. “What, Mum? I felt the glass shake but…” Seconds after we hung up, an even louder one exploded, this time shaking the entire bank. I froze…

It didn't take long to get news of the twin explosions, and all I could think about was the proximity of Al Salam Mosque to my house. The phone lines went dead, no one could get a hold of another, and the panic began to rise. Me? I was still frozen. It still hadn't sunk in, how could an explosion have just rattled my hometown?! Yes, we've had gunshots and bombs before, but this one had hit closest to home…

I don’t know where I get it from, but I have a tendency of remaining calm in chaotic situations. I don’t panic, even when everyone around me is, but my mind was blank as ever. I started mindlessly packing up the files and papers on my desk, filing, locking up. I didn't leave until after most of the bank had emptied. I knew they were alright, I felt they were alright, but that was my heart working, not my brain…

When I stepped outside, the streets were half empty. I walked to my car which, that day, I had found a parking place for in the backstreet. It was on an intersection that was now sealed off by the army’s barbed wires. One of the army men, who know me because I walk that street daily and ask me about interest rates almost every other day, came to pull the barbed wire aside, “Allah Ma3ek,” he waved me off. I rushed home, and when I saw the television screen, I felt a sting in my heart as tears began to well in my eyes…

Photo By: Mustapha Hamoui

This is only at the far end of the street parallel to ours. 200 meters away, that’s it. That’s how close I lived to the mosque, the stores, the cafรฉ shops, the buildings. But I was one of the lucky ones, because our building was just tucked away from the devastation. People I knew well had their homes shattered. Car parts had flown 10 stories up and into some people’s bedrooms, glass everywhere, balconies collapsed…

And then the heartbreaking stories of those people, like the grandfather who went to pray, asking his three grandchildren to wait for him outside, and how he came back to find their fumed corpses. I knew people praying inside, people living outside…

But again, I was a lucky one. I was a lucky one because I wasn't there at the time, because I didn't see the smoke and the people dead and dying and crying, but my heart is burning. Because as much as I hate this city, I just as much I love it. And I'll always read your name in the sky Tripoli, won't I? All I have left to say about yesterday’s tragedy is God bless all the innocent souls, heal all the hurt, and protect what’s left. Tripoli & all Lebanon, always in my prayers… 

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