Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Note from Beirut

I have been tongue-tied these last few days. Try as I may to write something, if only for self-therapy, I could only come up with half-finished sentences and incoherent thoughts. But as I have kept some of you worried, I felt I at least owed you a little something, part description, part reassurance.

Let me start with the latter: we are all alright. A miracle of human nature and resilience, and in some cases, just miracles. For all the ammunition that was let loose in Beirut on Thursday and Friday, we emerged physically unharmed, where others were not as lucky. A miracle that bullets didn’t make it past my balcony, and loose shots that made it through some of my friends’ windows (one of which went through my lovely teenage niece's bedroom window) hit only furniture and walls. A miracle that friends who were suddenly cut off from their homes could find somewhere else safe in which to shelter. Darkened corners in our homes – corridors and bathrooms – became safe havens, and we were spared. One friend spent the night in the bathroom with her three children aged 6 years, 2 years, and 5 months, whereas her husband’s only possible route from work, a building that was attacked, was to exit Beirut. There were many others like them. Other friends took on the task of keeping armed fighters out of their buildings using only their negotiation and persuasion devices, and they succeeded, safely. And for all the fighting that took over my mountain on Sunday and Monday, family and friends remained safe. These have become my versions of modern day miracles.

I started by reassuring you that we’re fine, so I don’t write this to rile up sympathy or concern, but rather to document these last few days as they were to us, outside of political analysis and pontification. After remaining under pseudo house arrest for a couple of days, we slowly emerged onto the streets in our attempt to gradually reclaim our city. Schools remain closed, but we have all returned to our offices for a few hours a day. I lead my car as if I have just learned how to drive, paying attention to everything on the streets, taking in all signs of reassurance (more stores opening up) and caution. The phrase “cautious calm” best describes our status quo. Something in my lovely city, and country, has changed drastically and I am trying to reacquaint myself with it.
But today saw our real breakthrough, when our sense of humour broke out and pushed our spirits up. Laughter shall set you free!

I don’t know what the coming days will bring, but we are clearly all here for the long haul, and perhaps we’re now a little better prepared for it. Who knows.

One thing I do know is that I could not have made it through the last few days without the support of amazing family and friends. They will never know how much their messages and calls meant to me during this ordeal, and I equally cannot thank them enough for your support. I guess that’s another miracle – having people like them in my life. I hope I never have to return the favour under similar circumstances!!

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