Tania cannot stay alone in a room. For several days, Carla believed that the war was starting. The trauma is still very much alive in the Beirutis after the explosions in the port, confronted in their day to day with the spectacle of in a sinister city.
In a Lebanon punished by several decades of attacks and wars – the last in 2006 – the explosion of August 4, which caused at least 171 deaths and more than 6,000 wounded, shook the capital and rekindled many wounds from the past.
With the first rumblings, Carla came out onto the balcony of her house, in the Geitaoui neighborhood, hit squarely. All the glass in his house was smashed by the explosion.
« I thought it was an aerial bombardment. I associated the noise with what I remembered from the 2006 war, » he says.
Carla ran to the stairwell. His neighbor, an elderly woman, calmly opened the door of her house to remove the windows she had swept.
« A reflection that comes from the war. When something breaks, we sweep it away, » explains the 28-year-old publicist. More than a week later, he continues to stay at his parents’ house, unable to return to his apartment. At night, he can’t sleep.
« A car passes by on the street and I think it is the noise of an airplane, » he adds. « Everything is a trigger [de los recuerdos] 2006. I had never realized how the war had marked and traumatized me. «
– Door to door –
In the devastated neighborhood of Karantina, from whose balconies the desolate ruins of the port can be seen, the teams of Doctors of the World go on a door-to-door mission to offer psychological support.
But people find it difficult to open up, express what they feel. A few days have passed, and there are already those who are beginning to loosen up.
« They talk and tell you that it allows them to feel better, to evacuate their anger, » explains Noelle Jouane, director of the NGO’s mental health program.
The psychological consequences of the explosion are quite visible.
At the entrance to the Mar Mikhaël neighborhood, razed to the ground, the hammering of a worker against an iron plate causes an older man to startle. He hides his head between his shoulders and leans, with difficulty, on the hood of his vehicle. « It’s nothing, » a pedestrian reassures him.
Later, a rumor circulates that a fire has broken out in the port. A movement of panic seizes the inhabitants and the people who are busy removing rubble. Some start running. People warn each other: you have to get out of there. In the end, it is nothing serious.
« Let’s not forget that […] In Lebanon, the entire society was already living under psychological pressure, « underlines Rima Makki, director of mental health activities at Doctors Without Borders, alluding to the country’s economic collapse and the new coronavirus pandemic.
« A traumatic incident of this scope will obviously have repercussions, » he considers.
Among these are panic, fear or even a certain disconnection with reality, all of them « normal reactions to abnormal events. »
– « Guilty for surviving » –
« The first two days, I cried all the time, » admits Tania, a 32-year-old accountant and mother of two, who was in the city center at the time of the explosion.
« He said to me: ‘Why are you crying? Your family is safe, others have died.’ It’s as if I felt guilty for having survived, » he adds.
Her bruises recall what happened but she has few memories of the moment of the explosion. She still has a hard time being alone.
« During the day it’s easier but at night I can’t. I ask someone to stay by my side, » he acknowledges.
Any noise scares her, and she mistrusts the doors and windows. « When I open a window, I am afraid that it will explode in my face. »
Omar, a visual artist, is tormented by the idea that he could have been disfigured or that he could have died if he had been at home.
« The kitchen knives flew off, all the glass exploded, » explains the thirty-year-old, who lost two colleagues in the explosion.
« I don’t know how you can overcome something like this, » he adds. « You go on with your life, but you do it differently. »
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