August 4, 2020. I remember planning to go out and have my first outdoor cafe date with a close friend from home on August 5. I remember laying out a summer dress and snapping pictures to send to my friend so we could coordinate for our take on a normal outing since the start of the pandemic.
But I do not remember Beirut on August 4, 2020. Or the people, places, and hope that fell through the cracks of a society already tarnished with political and economic turmoil. I never wondered what it would feel like to lose everything in an instant while readjusting to a “new normal.” But as I do more research and learn for the first time about a tragedy of negligence and untimely despair, I start to wonder about how distant I really am from this disastrous explosion.
The people in Beirut were just as unsuspecting and human as me. We can grieve, smile, and make jokes together. I wondered if there was a young woman there that was just as uncertain yet hopeful about the future as me — who wrote to clarify otherwise mystifying ideas, thoughts, and profoundly beautiful worlds. Maybe she was just realizing that her capability is not limited to what others believed she could do. Maybe she also had faith in a plan bigger and wider than any dream could take her.
As I picture myself sharing the same spirit as this fictional yet intensely real woman, I feel an emptiness inside. I grieve for my ignorance in the past and the way I failed to learn about her story earlier. Even if she still exists in this universe, I imagine she is not the same and that August 4 marks unbearable change and reminders of the way things are.
As the anniversary of the Beirut explosion approaches, I want to acknowledge both the tragedy of experience and distance. Why does Lebanon seem like a foreign world when I live only a 15 hour flight away? Before even beginning to address the explosion, I have to first address the deep divide that I have created between me and the world that sustains those living in Beirut.
The unimaginable effects of this disaster are still withstanding today. From gas shortages to mental health crises, the explosion has amplified already-existing problems and introduced new layers of complication to others. One question that I grapple with after watching, listening, and learning about this is: How do you find hope and rebuild when it seems like the system you’re living in works against your efforts?
In an event that overturns a city, where do you find redemption?