BY NAREH CHORBAJIAN
Sitting in my room, I am watching the blue skies and beautiful trees outside my window. I comfortably lie on my bed with my windows closed on a warm August day and the air conditioning breeze strokes my cheek. Sitting in my room, I am scrolling through my phone during my 10 minute break between my classes. Then, a picture pops up from the “WeAreLebanon” Instagram page. As I stare at the image, I am not able to comprehend this tragic event. The picture was of a little girl standing in a room with no windows, in a damaged house next to the port of Beirut, where the explosion took place. As I scroll down, I see another picture from the “LiveLoveBeirut” page, in which Abdo is sitting in rubble where his house used to stand. He not only does not have windows, but he does not have a roof over his head. So many images, so many destroyed lives, so many stories… Every picture had a memory, every picture had a life, every picture had a window, every picture had a family with a home, every picture had a family with a home with windows. And now all that is gone…
I ask myself, why? What did this Lebanese child do to deserve a destroyed room with no windows? What did that old man, whose great grandfather built his house 200 years ago, do to deserve to be homeless? Why did Alexandra, a 3-year-old child, had to die while playing in her house? Why Jessica, and Armenian nurse, who was at the hospital trying to save lives had to die due to falling debris? I am sitting in my room with windows and going through my day-to-day life with no similar hardships. Then I thought to myself, that could have been me. I was there the same week last August visiting Lebanon with my family.
I was there walking on the same streets in Gemmayzeh, which are completely demolished now. My sister and I were sitting at a café experiencing Beirut’s culture. I can still hear the voices of the crowds socializing in coffee shops and pubs. This was Beirut! A city that did not sleep and a city that was full of life. This was Gemmayzeh! Unfortunately, now it is a mere devastating scene.
Last August, I was walking through the streets of a unique town. I saw a crowded neighborhood with Armenian flags hanging from every balcony and heard all kinds of conversations on the streets in Armenian. It was a place where everyone knew each other. A town, that kept the Armenian community alive in the diaspora with its buildings of Aztag newspaper, Hamazkayin, Homenetmen, ARS, ARF “agoumps”, Prelacy, schools and churches. We visited almost all these places and walked through these “հայահոծ” streets. Now I am looking at some pictures of familiar neighborhoods and all I see are destroyed buildings, shattered windows, and wounded civilians. However, I see the wounded helping the wounded and the homeless helping the homeless. This is Bourj Hammoud! My father’s birthplace and the heart of the Armenian community!
Last year was my second time visiting this jewel city, Beirut, the Paris of the Middle East. A city with its world-class cuisine, fashion, French Mandate architecture, rich culture, white mountains and beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean, and more. My parents, who were both born and raised in Lebanon, had told us about the resilient Lebanese people- their unparalleled courage, perseverance, compassion, and hospitality. Now I understand exactly what they meant when looking at these pictures!
I am writing these words with mixed emotions. I have a feeling of relief but simultaneously a feeling of sadness. I am grateful that this explosion did not occur last year when my family was there, however, I will forever wish this did not happen at all. My heart aches thinking about the innocent people who lost their lives, their homes, and their windows… My heart aches thinking about the Lebanese children, who experienced the shock, the trauma, the frightening loud noise, the smell of the smoke, and the aftermath of this explosion. There should not be anymore complaints about the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing, the premature start of our school in August, not being able to socialize with my friends, and not travelling during our summer vacation. There is no time to complain. Rather, it is time to reinvigorate my Lebanese heritage, listen to my crying heart, think about the less fortunate, and to have windows installed in every torn-down home. The children of Lebanon deserve to sleep, eat, study, and continue flourishing as a human being.
No child and no elderly left without WINDOWS!
Let us lend a hand and help rebuild their windows.
If my friends, classmates, and relatives save their coffee money for one day, they can help the Lebanese in need.
Please take part in efforts to assist Lebanon with any amount of money you can. It does not matter how much you donate, because every penny makes a difference … You will make someone extremely happy and she or he will be thankful that one has a friend miles and miles away.
Nareh Chorbajian is a senior at Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School.