I never forget
Memories of my childhood come to me in bits and pieces most of the time. I’ve found that as an adult, my parents and other family members will fill in the blanks for me and some memories start to make more sense.
I remember my father with his handheld radio pulled up to his ear, listening to news in Arabic from Radio Monte Carlo, desperately trying to find out what happened in Lebanon that day. I couldn’t understand any of it, but I knew not to interrupt him. I knew it was important, but my child mind couldn’t fully understand why.
I remember stopping at Syrian and PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) checkpoints – not knowing which one is which – when we would visit Lebanon in the summer. My heart would sink and then slow down for fear of…I didn’t know what the fear was. I only read it on the face of the adults in the car with me and then felt it myself. But we always passed without a problem.
I remember my parents telling me stories of how some of their siblings almost died in an assassination attack on a former Lebanese president. Or how others were almost massacred in a small town up in the Northern part of Lebanon, but managed to flee before they could become victims. Or how a stray bullet almost killed my father while he was standing on his balcony smoking a cigarette. But he went in before it hit his apartment.
I remember a lot of cigarette smoke, people wearing military camouflage and holding pistols and rifles, hunched over the radio listening to the latest news.
I remember the bullet holes, large ones, in our apartment building in Beirut where we used to stay sometimes when we’d visit.
I remember feeling safer high up in the mountains or the beach.
I remember as a teenager seeing the aftermath of the civil war in downtown Beirut, which looked like a dusty, gray ghost town. All you could hear was silence. The saddest silence.
I remember the Israeli airplanes flying overhead and breaking the sound barrier often. None of us ever flinched because it’s the norm.
I remember it all.
No one really understand and no one will ever understand, unless they come from a war torn country. No one understands the prejudice and racism we’ve faced all over, be it other Arab countries or the West. Nobody gets it, unless they’ve experienced it.
And I do not wish that experience on anyone. Ever.