July 19, 2006

Staying in Beirut

Staying in Beirut

Faysal Itani, 23, grew up in Beirut. After working and studying in DC for six months, he visited his parents and girlfriend in Beirut this summer. He was planning on returning to the States to start his master’s in international affairs in the Fall.

He was out with his girlfriend celebrating their first anniversary when the bombs started to fall. We got in touch with him after he posted this comment on the thread for Monday’s show.

I rushed her home and rushed home, and I’ve been cooped up since. Technically, it’s mostly the infrastructure that we’ve seen destroyed. There is a black cloud over the southern half [of the city]. You want to stay away from the windows and crack them open a little bit so they aren’t blown out. You listen to the news to make sure you know what is going on. It is basically a feeling of incredible claustrophobia, that you can’t get out and the situation is out of your hands.

Faysal Itani, The Thinking Lebanese, in a phone call with Open Source, 7/18/06

To visit his girlfriend, Faysal has to cross the city, using the bridges that have become targets.

Beirut is pretty much deserted, and that is very, very rare. It is a bustling and crowded and noisy city. When I head over there, on one side it is just black. I see refugees [from the south] in the street, in the hundreds of thousands, carying their things with their families. Most people have a place to stay, but most of the time they are wandering around on the streets. There are no cars and no army around. It’s pretty eerie actually. That’s basically the best way to describe it. A strange thing to behold. And there is the nearly constant sound of the planes overhead. It becomes ambient noise overhead. You had better live with it.

Faysal Itani, 7/18/06

Though he does not live in the Hezbollah-controlled zone, his sense of security is eroding. The Israelis, he said, are targeting anything of strategic significance, like bridges, power stations, and Lebanese army posts. The danger was more tangible after the lighthouse on his street was bombed.

You don’t want to get comfortable, you don’t feel safe. When they are hitting and the bombs are hitting not next to you, you try to keep from thinking that you might get bombed. The worst part is at night, when you want to sleep. The more relaxed you’ll get, the more shock there will be.

Faysal Itani, 7/18/06

Faysal cannot — like many in Beirut — flee through Syria for political reasons. He has a Canadian passport and might use it to be evacuated. He wrote about whether he should Stay or Leave…? on the blog The Thinking Lebanese.

There is collective anger and national heartbreak: we’ve come so far in the last year and a half. Lebanon has been rebuilt, Beirut has been rebuilt … it did seem that there was light at the end of the tunnel. This is a real shock. We were comfortable for the first time in awhile. You almost can’t bear it.

Faysal Itani, 7/18/06

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