Gridlock To Safety (Beirut Explosion)


Malek Chaar


Over the years, there have been many man-made catastrophes that occurred around the world that have hurt, killed, or injured many people. When we speak of such catastrophes, stuff like war, weapons, or explosions come to mind. The year 2020 has been brutal on everyone around the world with high death rates, constant lock-downs, and certain countries going through recession or famine. Lebanon was one of those small countries going through a rough time during the pandemic, with a revolution going on against the government, an economic recession, and difficulty in obtaining equipment and aid for the people impacted by Covid. Omar Masri was a recent graduate of USJ (Saint Joseph University) in TV and Film. He landed a job at the Al Nahar newspaper headquarters as an editor for the well-known public speaker Malek Maktabi, on his show “Ahmar Bel Khat El Areed” (Straight Red Line).

August 4th, 2020 was like any typical day in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut. People were rushing to work, kids going to schools, and young adults getting ready for the beginning of the fall semester. It was also Omar’s first day on the job. Approximately at 5 pm, Omar was in the studio when he received a text from one of his friends asking him to meet up with them near the Jounieh district, which is about a 20-minute drive from Beirut. He was aware that it was rush hour and told his friends that he would rather meet up with them on another day because of the traffic. He then decided to stay at work a little longer and have a chat with the producer when his cousin called him. Omar’s cousin Ahmad, told him over the phone that he is waiting to meet up with him in Sodeco Square, a small gallery mall just five minutes away from Al Nahar. At about 5:45 pm, Omar made his way to Sodeco Square, which happens to be right in front of the apartment he and his family reside in.

He parked his car under his apartment building and walks towards the mall. He met up with Ahmad a floor underground in the parking area of the mall. at 6:05 pm, Omar and Ahmad heard a very low pitch bang as if it was a thunder strike. Three minutes later, the unthinkable happened. A huge explosion was heard around his area. Omar felt a big rush of wind go through him and heard a very loud buzzing sound go through his ears, seemingly that he was underground, the sound of the explosion had amplified. Unknowing where the explosion was, Omar felt like the ground shaking and felt like the building was about to fall over his head. He rushed outside of the underground parking to figure out what has happened and check if his family is okay. As soon as he gets outside, he noticed that traffic had halted, and everyone was looking up in the same direction.

As he looks up to see distraction he noticed a huge pink cloud covering almost half of the city. He ran towards the building which is located inside an alleyway, finds glass and rubble on the floor and most of the building residence alongside his family members standing at the entrance. One of his neighbors, a lady, was standing there covered in blood after her window exploded and sent glass flying towards her, causing major cuts on her body.

Everyone looked afraid and confused thinking that the Israeli army had sent in an airstrike on the urban city of Beirut. The phone lines and cellular connection were cut the first 15 mins, no-one was able to contact anyone, it was a complete blackout of confusion and fear the first few minutes. A while later, the news had reported that a devastating explosion had happened in the Port that swept through the whole city of Beirut destroying everything in its path at a radius of approximately 15 Kilometers.

At 6:08 PM, a massive amount of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the port exploded, causing approximately 204 deaths, 8,000 injuries, and 300,000 people homeless or displaced. The country was devastated and traumatized, so were Omar and his family. Omar then came in contact with some of his friends and coworkers to make sure they are all okay, only to find out that the Al Nahar building, where the production studio was located, was in ruins due to the building being less than 3 kilometer away facing the port.

Omar felt lucky and quoted that “if it wasn’t for the traffic jam or my cousin telling me to leave the studio to see him, I could’ve been one of those injured or probably killed because of the explosion, I’m glad everyone I love wasn’t hurt” he said in a heavy downhearted tone.