The initial distress of the Beirut explosion was enough – but the horrors that followed truly shocked me

As a journalist, I have covered numerous humanitarian stories and interviewed people in the most vulnerable communities, but never have I been so overwhelmed with emotions

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It was one of those rare occasions where, as a journalist, I was not merely covering a story but feeling its effect on my own life.

When the blast shook Beirut on 4 August, I fought my own impulses tooth-and-nail not to write anything on social media or speak out. My childhood memories were shaped in the tiny streets of Beirut’s Gemmayze district. Every alleyway, staircase, backroad, cul-de-sac, tells stories which are etched in my memory. The area severely hit by the blast is comparable to London’s Soho – it is where all after-work gatherings take place, our meeting point for every friendly occasion, celebration, or dinner.

The shock of the blast itself paled in comparison to what followed. Horrific news rained down on us like fire and brimstone with no time to process the magnitude of the event.

For two days I couldn’t sleep, eat, think. I was unable to find stories, make contacts, or conjure my reporter’s instincts. First thing on my agenda was to check on my loved ones, and that’s when I was overwhelmed by guilt: I was safe, and my house had not been damaged. No matter who I called, one thing was certain. Everything is gone.

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