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I never forget

Lebanon Summer 2013

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 think.

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.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. San #

    This is heartbreaking, Marie, and I am so sorry that these are personal memories that you carry around with you.

    I hope it’s not offensive to ask: are your parents sometimes glad that you’re safe, far away from this?

    September 16, 2015
    • Marie #

      The odd thing is I don’t mind these memories much. I also didn’t even witness the really bad parts of the war like so many others (including family members who didn’t leave Lebanon). I was actually really lucky.

      And it’s not offensive at all to ask that! My parents are happy that I am far away from the continuous conflict there (and region as a whole). But they miss me and I miss them terribly. So that’s really the only thing that sucks.

      September 16, 2015
  2. So terrible, war. It’s a blessing that children don’t remember all the details, right? I can’t imagine what you and your family went through.

    September 16, 2015
    • Are still going through.

      September 16, 2015
      • Marie #

        I think so. Although, I don’t know what other people around my age who lived through it all remember. They must have a lot more memories than I do, and stronger ones.

        The only way I can explain it is that it becomes a norm and you just learn how to survive. That’s what the Lebanese have always done.

        September 16, 2015
  3. Sadly I cannot relate at all. I hate to be so cliche but it certainly did a lot to make you the woman you are.

    September 16, 2015
    • Marie #

      And I hope you never ever relate! This is something I don’t wish on anyone. I totally agree with you though, without those experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

      September 17, 2015
  4. Can’t even begin to imagine or wonder what that was like for you, and anyone who’s grown up in a war torn country. Though, in a sad way (is it sad) these memories and that life spent there has made you who you are today.

    My mum has told me some stories from when she lived in Uganda, during Idi Amin’s reign. She can’t remember much of life there when the politics were causing civil war. Think she’s blocked out a lot of what happened. Which I guess is understandable.

    September 18, 2015
    • Marie #

      That must have been really awful being in Uganda during Idi Amin’s rule. I can’t even begin to imagine. And very understandable that she’d block it out. Usually the only way to keep on going with life.

      September 23, 2015
      • It’s sad because I know she has a fair few happy memories of her time there. She was 20 when she left, but they’re over-ruled by the terrifying ones.

        September 23, 2015

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