Feeling so much horror and grief over what has happened these last days in Paris, in Baghdad, in Beirut.
And also. Disturbed by the fact that it is only the Paris attacks that the Western media is focused on. I hadn’t even realized there was a bombing in Baghdad yesterday, until my friend told me–BBC didn’t even have it on their headlines.
Those killed in Paris, those wounded, their loved ones–they are all very, very important. But no less important are those killed and wounded in Beirut, in Baghdad and their loved ones.
I wrote a short piece called “Joe and the Beirut bombing” a few years ago, after a car bomb in the Achrafiyeh neighborhood of Beirut where I had spent time with my two-year old friend Joe and his family. Many of the sentiments expressed are applicable today–to the recently severed lives and loss in Beirut, in Baghdad, and in Paris.
JOE AND THE BEIRUT BOMBING
October 19, 2012
A few days ago, I walked down Platform #2 at the New Rochelle train station in Westchester, NY towards my two-year old friend, Joe, his parents, grandparents, and baby brother. I watched Joe’s face change from confusion to surprise to delight as he recognized me. Soon, we were singing the Moose Song together, as we regularly did when I visited him this summer in Achrafiyeh, Beirut, Lebanon, pushing his stroller around the very same streets—some days the very same actual street—where a car bomb exploded today, killing at least eight and wounding dozens of others.
“Hi, Joe!” each shopkeeper would call out to the blond toddler, who smiled and waved in turn, whipping “Ba” (his pacifier) out of his mouth when he neared Abed’s store, knowing that Abed would scold him, a big boy of two, for still sucking a pacifier. All of Beirut, it seemed, was in love with Joe.
It was Joe that I thought of first when I saw facebook postings that hospitals in Achrafiyeh needed blood donations, prompting me to immediately log onto AJE to see the chilling headline Deadly blast strikes Lebanon’s capital, and it was Joe that I continued to think of as I stared at the photos of the grisly aftermath of the attack, though I knew my friends had left Lebanon just over a week ago, and that they are nowhere near the cars and buildings which were transformed into twisted metal and rubble and were not among the blood-soaked, shocked men and women who searched frantically for their loved ones in the streets.
The instinct is familiar, though always troubling: think first of whether those you care for are safe, and feel the tremendous relief when you get confirmation that they are. Only then, while tasting that relief, is there room for the sickening realization of what the tragedy means for those not lucky enough to have averted it. Only then, does the anxious knowledge penetrate that this bombing is likely a harbinger of far worse violence to come.
It goes without saying, yet still should be said: the children who were killed or maimed or lost parents in today’s bombing are no less precious to their loved ones than Joe is to his.
It goes without saying, yet still should be said: the lives of the Lebanese are no less important than the lives of ex-pats who can choose whether to come to Lebanon, how long to stay, and whether it seems prudent to get out before the shit hits the fan.
I am beyond relieved that my beloved toddler friend Joe, his parents and his baby brother are safe, out of Beirut, and preparing to move to Central America where Joe’s father received a new job posting.
But I am grieving for those caught in the horror of today’s attack—and terrified of what it signals for all the Lebanese that Joe and his family so recently left behind.