August 4, 2020: A Day That Will Forever Live in Lebanese Infamy

Every morning, my Google Photos app depicts a memory from the archive. Today, it was this capture from August 4, 2017: on the left, St. Georges Maronite Cathedral neighboring Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, nestled in the heart of downtown Beirut. We often say that the beauty of Lebanon is in the peaceful coexistence of so many faiths, creeds, and sects, and this is one symbol-laden image.

St. Georges Maronite Cathedral (left) and Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, downtown Beirut.

Three years to the day after this photo was snapped, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in the history of the world detonated in the port of Beirut. Annihilation doesn't begin to describe the aftermath: hundreds of lives were obliterated; thousands more, injured; hundreds of thousands, displaced; and large sections of the city and neighboring regions, completely leveled. Beirut was gutted, and its soul cast into an abyss of tribulation and mourning that continues to scale deeper and deeper fathoms as the days transpire.

The thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate didn't discriminate among the lives claimed, be it nationality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, or gender. I lost a friend and fellow Lebanese expat Krystel El-Adm who, like me, had returned to her motherland, swimming against the torrential tide of the brain drain, with the hopes of contributing time and talent to improving the infrastructure here. In fact, that fateful day she was equipping a neighbor with her laptop so that he wouldn't be disadvantaged by the virtual learning trends born out of the worldwide pandemic. Yet another friend Georgette Aoude was struck on the head and rushed to the hospital by an altruistic taxi driver who to this day remains unknown. She was plunged into a coma for more than a month, but thankfully today she is among us, alive and healthy.

We have never been in more need of prayers, of benevolent intervention, of community and collective strength. For a land that is home to a number of recognized saints and documented miracles, we sure have our share of filthy, rotten criminals who have managed to elude the reckoning powers of justice. But I have faith that "we shall overcome, one day."

Today and every day, please remember Lebanon and its hapless victims, alive and deceased. Pray. Pray. Pray.

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