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The Beirut Explosions Destroyed This Woman’s Home and Business in an Instant

An elderly injured Lebanese woman with bandages on her head and right arm looks directly ahead.

Photo: Milad Ayoub/CARE Lebanon

Photo: Milad Ayoub/CARE Lebanon

Grocer Siham Tekian lived through the Lebanon War and says she’s “never seen something of this magnitude.”

Siham Tekian, 67, was at home in Beirut when the double explosions happened at the city’s port on Tuesday. The blasts destroyed the building where she lives and works running a grocery store on the ground floor. She’s been sleeping on the street since the explosions occurred.

“This is my third night sleeping on the streets. Even on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, right after the explosion, I came back from the hospital, and I, since I no longer had a home, took a plastic chair and I dozed off, sitting on the pavement,” she says. “Yesterday evening, some young people brought me a sofa and put it on the pavement. It was a broken, dingy sofa, but hey it’s better than nothing. Tonight, I’ll be sleeping on the street too.”

“Life stopped for five long seconds.”

The explosions left Siham with 15 stitches in her arm, five in her forehead, 10 in her stomach. Her body has been grazed by broken glass.

“I was home when the explosion occurred. To me, it’s like life had stopped for five really long seconds, and then I saw blood, nothing but blood, all over my body. There was nothing left of the house. I walked to the entrance; the door was smashed. And I went out into the street. A man I don’t know took me in his car to a hospital outside Beirut,” Siham says.

The explosions left Siham with 30 stitches

The day after the double explosion, she went back to work in her half-destroyed grocery store.

“I can’t leave. The window is completely shattered. And then, leave to go where? I’ve lived here for 37 years and my husband was born in this neighborhood,” she says.

Siham lives in Mar Mikhael, one of Beirut’s oldest neighborhoods and very close to the port. It was built in the 19th century to house the workers who worked in the city’s new port. Today, it is the city’s most gentrified neighborhood, home to older inhabitants like Siham and newcomers, especially young people.

Dark smoke plumes rises over destroyed buildings that make up the devastated skyline of Beirut.

“I lived through the Lebanon War [1975-1990], but I have never seen something of this magnitude. I have nothing left, no furniture, no clothes, no sheets, everything has been torn apart by the glass debris,” she says, pointing to the dress she is wearing, slightly torn in some places.

Many young people in the neighborhood have reached out to help Siham, by working shifts at the grocery store so that she can rest, buying her new bandages, or cleaning her house.

From her chair, she points to a pile of broken items that have just been removed from the house, whispering, “I want to rest, I’m tired and my heart hurts.”

Her tears fall. She dries them quickly, gets up, and resumes her work behind the counter at the grocery store.

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