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Do People Know How Much We Hurt?
How do I even start this? How do I write about my Beirut? My heartbreak, my home, my safety, my loss. again.
I suppose I just start.
I have experienced true terror a handful of times. The first was in 1983. The first time I evacuated Beirut. We had gone to visit my jiddo Emile, my teta Hilda, as we did every summer. Just after we arrived,the airport was shut down, Israeli soldiers were everywhere, the mountains were filling with smoke. We spent the next week in the staircase of our building as shells fell around us. My brother Wadie was almost hit by shrapnel.
My father, Edward, was in Switzerland. He knew we were in danger. I had no idea he wasn’t with us because he was Palestinian. I didn’t understand. Although I was born in 1974, I never knew about the war until the summer of ’82 -- the first summer we didn’t go. The summer we spent in Illinois. I did cartwheels in the living room trying to get Mommy and Daddy’s attention. But all they did was watch the news and eat nuts and look worried. I wish I’d known how my Mommy’s heart was breaking. I know now.
We got on the boat and fled to Cyprus leaving my family behind. The boat was filled with pilgrims going to Mecca. I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know Muslim or Christian or Jew. I didn’t know anything. I knew fear and I knew confusion. I knew the sound of bombs. An inexplicable sound if you haven’t felt it before, for it is a sound you feel and not a sound you hear. It is TERRIFYING. Your body shakes. You feel helpless and you cry, that’s what happens. No sound effect can really replicate what it feels like when they’re real.
I never thought I’d hear that sound again. I went into my Mommy’s bed the night before we left. I was scared. The balcony door was open because there was no A.C., no electricity. As the curtains fluttered behind me I shivered and shook in my non-existent sleep. I felt the breeze behind my back and knew for certain the bombs would get me as I lay there vulnerable. But I was frozen in terror. Shivering and shaking, teeth chattering.