Oct 20, 2012

Restoring Faith in Humanity

This post is to talk about Lebanese humans, nothing more, nothing less. And for your information, Humanity STILL exists in my country, whether you've seen it or not, whether you agree or you don't.

A few minutes after 2:30PM yesterday Friday OCT 19th 2012, a huge explosion shook the building I work at and of course, the whole area, to the point that I thought glass was going to break all over. It was easy to see from my window people in the street looking towards one direction, that is of the nearby Ashrafiyyeh. My colleague thought it was the nearby gas station that exploded, but going to the building's roof, it was more than clear. Sassine was on fire.

I had so many friends over there, Reine worked in the Hotel Dieu Hospital, Maryam lives there, Navia and Riwa also live/work there, Chris also, and they were all one minute away from the explosion. Lines were down, both fixed and mobile, congestion prevented anyone from calling any person that was there. I managed, through one call and social network as Facebook and Twitter, to be reassured that all of them were safe, except for Reine who was still no where to be found, but knew afterwards that she was stuck in the hospital until the moment she could've gone out. She kept telling me of the anxiousness that was filling the hospital seconds after the explosion; no one knew what had been going on outside. It didn't take too long before the news spread, a booby-trapped car exploded in the Sassine roundabout, the heart of beirut and one of the most crucial and vivid areas of the capital. This was a bold message, and it was only a matter of time before insults and political debates among the lebanese parties erupt into pointing fingers and accusing this and that.
A car burns at the site of an explosion in the Ashrafieh district of Beirut, Lebanon, on Oct. 19, 2012. (Mahmoud Kheir / Reuters)
Street talk was indicating no one could gotten out of this explosion alive, and thus alerting me and many others that there will be deceased people, in big numbers unfortunately. That incidence was an alarming occasion for so many people to react, to stand up and fight terrorism with all they got, sometimes with the only thing they got, their humanity. In the blink of an eye, Donner Sang Compter, "An NGO which promotes responsible citizenship and safe blood donations in Lebanon", sent a loud call immediately for everyone capable of reaching nearby hospitals to go there and donate blood, especially O negative.
The fire service said eight people were killed and dozens wounded by the huge exlosion that detonated in a residential and commercial street in central Beirut on Friday [STRINGER/REUTERS]
The queues of blood donors, very alike in nearby hospitals [via Donner Sang Compter]
The moment Reine in Hotel Dieu, I knew the amount of young enthusiastic people standing in line and filling the hospital's corridors awaiting their chance to provide their blood for those in need. Faith in humanity can never be restored but in such actions, where politics are no where to be found, races and genders mix, and the only flag that's raised is the one belonging to human solidarity alone. My timelines in both Facebook and Twitter were instantly flooded with the humanitarian requests for blood donations around the country. Apparently all tweets and FB posts got so many retweets, shares and spread-outs trying to diversify the outreach so that the most people would be able to know and respond accordingly. It is known that blood donation is so easy it would take only a few minutes of time, and is utterly efficient in saving other people's lives. I can never hide the emotional waves that hit me while sitting in my office staring at the laptop's screen insanely pressing that keyboard trying to follow all news around me, the efforts put by DSC and the donors brought me goosebumps several times along the way..

On the other hand, it is a blessing to me to meet someone whose goals in life are solely to help others, to dedicate one's breath's and moments in helping those who were in need, instead of taking the time to rest or get busy in own's favor, even it that meant to go there by herself. Meet Reine (so called rain), a girl who finds it so hard to be a social person and giving away fake smiles, while offering help to the needy is a bliss. Hugging someone who needs the hug, making someone smile or offering help to a grieving mother would simply make her day, that's how she, along with so many others, define her direction in life, her goal in this world. Right after checking on her and arriving safely to her place, she called me expressing her need to do something. A simple act of humanity was launched that same moment we closed our lines, we decided to go to Sassine square, the place where the assassination took place, to lend a hand for the injured, to check on their families to see if they need any extra hand, to clean the area and to support everyone around there basically.
It was crucial for our act to succeed to have the names of those who died that day, and it would've been a plus to also get the names of the injured, along with the hospital they've been to. But to our bad luck, no hospital could hand out the names of neither the deceased nor the injured. Here are a few tweets of the campaign that was held today morning from 8 AM till 12 AM

we are meeting tomorrow near abc achrafiye at 8 am, to see how we can help with the cleaning and other ways. @achrafiye @beirut

i ask u to visit the patients who were injured in the hospitals, provide any kind of help even if it was simply emotional support.

The so many road blocks along the way from Tripoli to Beirut prevented me from going there and taking part in the act, even if I managed to be there, I should forget about returning back to my town on the same day: that was more than impossible apparently. Two others were banned from going there by their parents and therefore, Reine went there with one friend that put great effort into helping her out with the injured and those coming in and out of emergency rooms. From what I can remember telling me of her first impressions right after she got home saying: "So we went inside and waited for the doctor, we met him but he couldn't give us any of the names of the deceased, he said most of those who came in already left. There were only 5 left, 3 of which were in ICU (intensive care). So we visited the remaining two women, one whose eye was injured, the other was young. She was inside with her family. Her sister came to me and I proposed that we're here to offer any kind of help, she asked us to wait for the mother to finish talking with the priest. We listened to the mother telling their story to the priest: they lost their house, their car, her daughter was badly hurt. When they finished the priest and the mother asked us who we were, who sent us and such questions. I replied with "we are not related to anyone or anything just random people", and the mother was emotionally moved, shock was on her face. She said "they all came to cover the story for their media venue, but no one actually came to ask us whether we needed anything for nothing in return". I hugged the mother and we started both crying... I was shaking the whole time and then grabbed my hand after promising to check up on her and her promising to call if she needed anything. She asked us for our names and then said that we have to.be strong "ma tenhare""

Chris was utterly supportive to Reine throughout the day, "he was my rock" she told me. Here's what Chris had to say of what he's seen that morning:

When i heard that the blood banks were full in all three hospitals (rizk, roum and hotel dieu) for the first time in history to the point of sending people away. It restored my faith in humanity a bit. People in general want to help, but too often there's no awareness as to how and where, and they're conditioned by the system to adopt the helpless victim mentality.

Another heart-moving tweet crossed my timeline, was that of a guy apparently living in Ashrafiyyeh, who asked to spread his tweet where he offered his place for anyone who lost his home and needed somewhere to stay at: 

Ralph Choueiri's tweet got so many retweets in minutes, for any humanitarian act needs no publicity, no begging for sharing. Ralph amazingly replied to a tweet telling him he was famous after yesterday's retweets, with a "I wish I wasn't"
I wish I could have the chance to sit down and have his say about what happened later, but I can fully understand trying to stay away from lights, and I utterly respect it.

Eventually, looking at the people of my country ACTING united instead of talking for years about unity, gave me a stench of refreshment: the touch of humanity was felt across the country in the past 24 hours. The deceased are being mourned at the moment, and the injured are being healed and hospitalized. All we can do at the moment is wish (though i'm not a fan of wishing) that this would be the last of our country's miseries, because we had enough, really...

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