By Diba Khalili
In Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, 2020 at 6 p.m. Warehouse 12 in the Beirut port had smoke blowing off the roof. What is to be noted is that the warehouse was exactly next to grain silos, which had been triggered and oxidized and transformed into an eruption. Lebanese civilians would go on to suffer 190 losses, 6,000 wounded, and 300,000 temporarily displaced as a result of the explosion.
Warehouse 12 had caught ablaze since ammonium nitrate had combined with oil fuels, becoming flammable, which set a domino effect of small blasts until there was an explosion heard all around Lebanon. Beirut, the capital, had the worst damage than any other city in Lebanon. The 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in warehouse 12 is to be blamed, says Lebanon’s Prime Minister.
Interview — 09/17/2020
Once the news of the Beirut explosion broke out, I had decided to call my Lebanese friend Celine to check in on her. Celine was born in New York but had lived in Lebanon for two years, having recently moved back to New Jersey with her family. Knowing that Celine had more information about the explosion and personal ties to Lebanon, I thought why not interview her about the tragedy. The interview had started dense with solitude and ended with the unexpectedness of what the future holds for Lebanon.
Diba: Why did you move to Lebanon?
Celine: I would visit Lebanon every couple of years and My family decided to pick up and move to Lebanon because it was doing really well at that time and it was time to really live my culture. I had to move back because of my dad’s work and my parents wanted me to receive an American diploma and to start college and build a future in America.
Diba: Have you ever visited the Beirut port, and what goes on there?
Celine: No, but I would always pass by it. What goes on at the port is the importing and exporting of goods in Lebanon, but here’s nothing going as of now because the explosion has made the port filled with shattered glass, dead bodies, and debris from the buildings.
Diba: How is Lebanon dealing with the explosion?
Celine: Not well at all. After a couple of weeks, the same place had gone on fire but thankfully no one was around because the explosion made them evacuate the Beirut port. But recently, downtown Beirut also had another fire, the Beirut Souks mall — no one is hurt but it’s said that they’re opening a case of why the fire happened.
Diba: How did you feel about the unexpected explosion?
Celine: Depressed. It’s my hometown and my people are suffering out there and life there seems to be collapsing. There’s COVID-19, corruption, protests since October 2019, government problems, economic problems — and now there’s an explosion? Weeks have been spent searching for those lost and ending up finding them burned, drowned, or injured. It’s not getting any better and it’s hard to have hope during these trying times. Lebanon is having a hard time recovering, but the people of Lebanon and those around the world had chosen to clean up and help and build up Beirut together in this tragedy.
Diba: How are your friends and family doing in Lebanon?
Celine: No one I know was hurt, but their living situation is disastrous; my mom’s aunt’s house broke down and she was covered in glass. My friend’s house also broke down and her family was trying to look for her and thankfully they found her. Some of my friends and family are leaving and some are stuck in Lebanon because they don’t have visas or documents.
In conclusion, Lebanon and its people have been suffering from the outcome of the explosion. There’s a chance it may take Lebanon a long time to recover from the explosion and everything else going on at the moment — yet they still have a sliver of hope for the future. I would like to thank Celine for bringing me some insight into the news and letting me interview her during these hard times for her home country.