Monday, August 07, 2006

Beirut, August 6th, 06

I need to share a secret.
I know why I took half a day off yesterday.
Friday night, I went home at 11:00 pm. They were watching the news there. They keep the TV on all the time. I don’t know when they’re watching and when they’re not.
There was the usual footage of villages with heavy smoke in the background; the usual figures: the number of dead, the number of rockets; the usual blah blah blah from DC (or wherever he’s on vacation now), London, Paris and Beirut..
And then, suddenly, there she was. She was 80? 75? She was wearing a black and white dress, a scarf hardly covering her white hair. The most striking thing about her were her eyes. They were wide opened, as if they were screaming. They were so opened. Terrified, she looked terrified. I’m sorry, her eyes looked terrified. There were Red Cross rescuers helping her out of her house.
Someone was talking to me in the room, but I had my eyes glued on that lady’s eyes, and I was trying to hear what the correspondent in the south was saying about her. SHE WAS BLIND, he said. The poor lady was blind, stuck in her house, alone, for ten days, not knowing what was going on, not knowing what she should do.

Were her eyes were open like this because she’s blind, or because they were reflecting her feelings? THE POOR LADY WAS THERE, ALONE, BLIND, FOR TEN DAYS, UNDER THE SHELLING, NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO, NOR WHERE TO GO.
I did not sleep that night.
And every time I remember this lady I feel I’m suffocating.
Today, there was a lady, same age, talking to TV reporters from her hospital bed. She had a “rural” accent, and when she spoke you could tell she was old because of the sound her denture made.
The reporter, who used to have her own games show, asked her with her very “Beiruti” , I’m-a- beautiful –spoiled- yet –compassionate- girl- accent “ and how did you get here”?
“Ya binti (my child) “the old lady said, “When you get hit how do you get anywhere? What can you do? You go out, try to escape the shelling, but I don’t have a car, and you can’t leave while they’re hitting, and what do you do when you’re my age? I can’t run, and there is no one in the streets to help you, and if a car happens to be passing by you can not stop it, who would stop under the shelling?” And cut.
There was a question haunting me, for the last few days. Two or three days after Qana, with the flow of pictures of the same nature coming from every region in the country, I kept wondering about the real effect of these pictures.
Ever since this started, my departement here decided we were only going to tell the stories of the people. The survivors, those in hospitals, those in shelters, in refugee centers, anywhere: our job is to tell there stories. Each story if we could. And to publish their pictures. Each one of them if we could.
But then , I thought , this was intended to show what it meant to be injured, to loose a child, a house , a village .. but what if this will only make people get used to the new situation. Would people get bored from these stories?
And most important, would the pictures of civilians killed in shelters, on roads, in house, become “normal” when you publish them everyday? Is this why they’re bombing civilians all the time: so we get used to that fact, so we get sick of seeing more if the same , so that pictures of bleeding kids loose their meaning…
The stories of the two old ladies offered me a partial answer: no , no one can get used to this. And even if you do , there will always be “new” stories, stories none of us could dream they might happen.



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