When the Port of Beirut exploded a little over a month ago, I was only two streets away. In a matter of a few seconds, the entire world around me felt like an open wound. I drove away from the area as fast as I could, having no idea whatsoever of where the fierce sound that shook me from the inside out had come from, or if it would strike again in the next minute or two, piercing through my life.
The streets of Mar Mikhael were brimming with a madness I never thought possible. People were exposing their bloody bodies to passersby, pleading for help. A symphony of sirens wailing was crawling into my every bone. Clusters of confused cars were rushing towards gas stations, thirsty for fuel. There was so much wreckage to take note of, I could not get myself to blink.
‘Is this how wars begin?’ I remember thinking to myself. Will this be how I die?
I drove to my home to grab my and my family’s personal documents as fast as I could. For all I knew, war had erupted in Lebanon and I needed to be ready to leave the country if and when necessary. I hugged my cats as though for the last time and retired to a town far from Beirut. In my backpack lay my two passports, Lebanese and Armenian. My keys for a possible escape.
What I most recall from that horrid Tuesday, however, was the thought that knocked at my ears ceaselessly: I don’t ever want to feel this way again. In Lebanon, we all know that is a far-fetched desire.
I had escaped death that day, but almost 200 others, their lifeless bodies spread out under debris only a few meters away, had not. I could have been one of them. My grandmother believes it was her prayers to Saint Charbel that had guarded me. My sister still reiterates Asdvadz yeresit nayetsav. God protected you.
On that Tuesday, I had experienced one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions of all time. A few minutes before it happened, a friend and I were discussing our future plans over coffee. It was the first time we had hung out after months of being in lockdown. Isn’t it a shame we are spending our early twenties dealing with a pandemic and an economic crisis? We were wondering, our cheeks gleaming with youthful zest. A few minutes later, we were running for our lives. Little did we know the pandemic and the crash of the Lebanese Lira were the least of our worries.
For weeks now, the monotonous voices of news reporters have been in the background of our home atmosphere. I have been watching my parents melt away into the screening of the August 4 victims’ funerals on TV, observing how other parents grieve for the loss of their loved ones. I cannot even imagine the thoughts that might be crossing their minds in the midst of that observance. Nevertheless, this has become life.
When they are not talking about the misery that was August 4, however, I noticed how they found a certain comfort in speaking of Armenia, our native homeland. After the Beirut blast, my father’s wish for me to consider moving there intensified. Lebanon is only going to go downhill from here, he believes. I should seek safety in a land that can promise it. Almost all Armenians around us have already made that glorious move and are harvesting their planted seeds there, and blooming.
In fact, it was only Saturday night when my dad talked to me about moving to Armenia and building a new life there, both for my homeland and myself. The idea was beginning to grow on me.
Today, Sunday the 27th, was the first day in months that I did not wake up to news reporters discussing what crises have befallen Lebanon in their Arabic dialect. Today the news channels were all in Armenian. As loud and as startling as ever. This might mean war, my father exclaimed from the living room, crestfallen before even beginning his day. The Azeris and Turks have extended their dirty claws at our people again.
Everything seems to mean war these days. My question remains, how many prayers will it take to dodge the ever-present bullets of death?
As for the soldiers who are heroically fighting on the frontline as we speak to protect the divine Armenian soil and life, my thoughts and prayers are with you. May you return to us safe and sound. Thank you for your sacrifices, and Godspeed!