One year since the Beirut blast: How it has changed the people of Lebanon

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports on the lives rocked by the blast

Beirut stole my heart as teenager. I owe that beautiful city all I have today.

At 13, I volunteered for Friends of John McCarthy, the campaign to free the British hostages in Beirut through the 1980s and 90s.

As a little girl growing up in a tiny northern village I was fascinated by that faraway land. In 1991, aged 16, I got glandular fever, just after John McCarthy was freed.

I didn’t do my A-levels or a degree.

Yet Vincent Kelly, a wonderful journalist, gave a qualification-less me a chance on a journalism course because I had that on my CV. No-one asked about exams after that.

Last year, almost thirty years to the week after John McCarthy was freed, I was back in Beirut for some of its darkest days.

I say some because Beirut has many dark days in it’s past and sadly still in its present.

The city, rebuilt after the civil war which decimated it, was destroyed once more. It was a place in deep shock, grief and mourning.

And once more, destroyed by those of its political elite, this time choosing to ignore the threat at its heart. 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the port.

Port workers run to the scene of the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. Credit: AP

My time in Beirut, hearing the tragedy, the stunned disbelief and the utter devastation of those we interviewed and those we were lucky enough to work with, will never leave me.

They were not part of the wars of the past, they were, they are, the future of the country.

Yet they couldn’t then, nor can now, reconcile was what happened to this city.

Watch Emma Murphy's report from Beirut a day after the explosion

They are amazing, smart, ambitious people who sought to battle against corruption, crazy living costs, corruption and inflation to make the troubles of the past just that , the past, and build a different future.

They had no idea that as they fought for change, down at the port, the corruption of their elders festered in a warehouse and would blow up. That history would take lives, futures and hopes.

The aftermath of the massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, 2020. Credit: AP

So many times over the last year I have thought of the dreadful irony that I was a young girl from far away who achieved her dreams as a result of one of Beirut’s darkest times and yet many, for whom this city is home, dreams are denied.

It is not for me to describe what August 4 has done to lives. Below are descriptions from two friends who live there.

Please read them.

They are wonderful people caught in a desperate situation.

Elissa Alawieh is a 24 year old marketing executive. She was in her office close to the port when the blast happened. 

I’m a person who likes to move on and stay strong.

Not this time, I still cry every time I see a mother of the victims, I remember I stayed up all night for almost five to seven days keeping up with the news feeling happy every time they find someone alive, I cried every time someone turned up to be alive as if it’s a member of my family, after all it could’ve been my big brother who didn’t pass next to the port as he should’ve.

Elissa Alawieh.

I’m still the strong person I am, however yesterday I was walking in a parking below the gym and big weights hit the ground I thought it was a far off explosion and I didn’t know if I should just give up and burst into tears or keep up the strong act and hope all is well.

Today we live in fear, we don’t feel safe, our government is ignoring us, we are not to protest , and whenever we see a victim’s picture we burst into tears then put up the strong act again.

I think that all Lebanese are not fine, even the ones who try to toughen up, what happened is super scary and there is nothing insuring that this won’t happen again, we all have our lives on the edge. And that’s it.

Adeeb Farhat, 31, film maker. He was in central Beirut at the time of the explosion. 

Well one year after the blast still feels like last week.

The city is not the same. Its people are not the same.

Adeeb Farhat.

Everybody wants to leave when they have a chance.

This year has been exhausting. No power. Prices rocketed. No fuel for cars.

It's like everything is moving against the people. Yet they cant find a way to get revenge on who ever did this to us.