They went to shattered, abandoned houses in the aftermath of an explosion in the Lebanese capital on August 4, cleaning blood stains from walls, sweeping broken glass and tidying doors and windows. crumbled. They carefully rearranged personal belongings, rebuilt books on shelves, straightened pictures hung on the wall and reconstructed fallen statues.
Volunteers clean up a barbershop on August 10. Photo: Washington Post.
“There are blood stains in the shape of hands and feet on the stairs, and there are also bloodstains on the hands and feet of children,” said Marwan, 33. He and a friend are cleaning up an almost completely demolished apartment for an old lady. They collect all the remaining belongings to be taken away and put away the bags full of broken glass and broken things.
Usually, volunteers do the cleaning when the owner of an apartment isn’t home.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers, poured down the streets of Beirut last week, some from other towns, and some from other countries such as the US or France. They are constantly working in the hopes of regaining the vitality of the city.
Volunteers focus primarily on cleaning at Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael, known for its bustling bars and crowded restaurants. Last week’s explosion, which created a shockwave that shook all east of Beirut, blew the glass doors of the sumptuous and lavish ordinary shops.
Now, the sidewalks of the streets are covered with broken glass and blood. Old balconies cracked into pieces, falling to crush cars parked by the side of the road and by passersby. The blown doors left holes in the buildings, eliminating all privacy. Passers-by often stopped and looked up, an expression of concern on his face.
On August 10, Marwan and his friend, 29-year-old Zeina, developed a habit of searching for damaged houses. They try to avoid structures that appear to be seriously damaged, leaving reassessment work to construction engineers.
Instead, they look for houses that still look good, and they meet with anyone and ask them if they need help.
In the house of 57-year-old Elie Chamoun, they kneel and sweep the broken glass. Sitting in the middle of the living room, Chamoun still hasn’t recovered from the shock of the explosion. He couldn’t stay home for more than 10 minutes, his mind haunted by his thoughts, wondering what would have happened if his daughter was lying in her bed when the explosion happened. Chamoun’s daughter that day came to her friend’s house, returned the next day and passed out when she saw the ruins.
Zeina and Marwan also give great support to the survivors. When they saw an old lady who looked weak, they gave her phone number to call for medical help. When they saw a panicked man, they gave him a mental health support number.
Marwan and Zeina on the streets of Beirut. Photo: Washington Post.
Before the disaster, Zeina, the architect, and Marwan, the engineer, joined the volunteer work at Embrace, a Lebanese organization focused on mental health. Zeina was on duty on the suicide hotline when her office vibrated.
“I see a lot of people going through terrible things. We are from the same country so we need to care about each other,” she said.
Zeina says cleaning after the disaster gives her a sense of peace and serenity. “I felt like I had to go to the streets and do something, for myself, for others, for my country,” she said.
Marwan joined the volunteer work one day after the explosion. When he was on his way to the hospital, carrying brooms and helmets, many people stopped Marwan’s car and asked him to help them clean the storefronts and walkways.
The people Marwan and Zeina helped express their gratitude for with the small gifts they had leftovers, such as a small souvenir, coffee package, some money or a bottle of water. But they both refused. The grandmother that Marwan and Zeina helped to clean the house begs them to return so she can play the piano for them. Two people agree.
The volunteers who did not clean up the wreckage delivered drinking water, coffee, masks, and sandwiches to those in need. Several volunteers stood guard outside abandoned buildings to prevent theft. Others filmed the city’s ruin.
From the balcony to the street, people cheerfully welcome the volunteers, giving them best wishes: “God gives you health”.
(According to Washington Post)