Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Living on the Faultline of gratitude after the earthquake

The 16th of March 1956 earthquake - artwork by Tarek Chemaly

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not an "optimist" by any long shot.

I take the data, rationalize it, take my decision, and hope for the best. Being in Lebanon this means that it is a hit or a miss game, most of the times a miss.

In an audio that has been heavily circulating via Whatsapp in Lebanon, a voice (I am attributing it without evidence to Mrs Marleine Brax, the Director of the National Center for Geophysics in Lebanon, because the voice is knowledgeable and armed with scientific data and speaks with the humble authority of someone who knows what they are saying) goes that if the epicenter of the earthquake was Aleppo or the other side of the Faultline - meaning the Lebanese Bequa'a valley - likelihood there would not be any Lebanon to speak of today.

Imagine the devastation you are seeing on the news in Turkey. Now imagine it - again - in tiny Lebanon which is already battling corruption, inflation, poverty,  state and banks financial collapse, which has no president, only a caretaker government, and a parliament barely hanging by a thread. Oh and this is the same country which is still patching up the humongous August 2020 explosion's aftermath which is at best legally murky.

Now imagine we have on top of all this have to deal with a deadly earthquake - incredibly deadly earthquake to the tune of 10,000 or even 20,000 deaths because at this point statistics are just "numbers" being thrown in a race against time to save anyone from under the rubble.

I contacted a Syrian man I know out of politeness to see how he is faring, his long and prolonged sobs informed me of the news before he said anything. His brother, sister in law and niece are all dead - he is getting his news from a third party because he cannot travel to Turkey as he needs a special document to go in. My first sentence to him - even before the condolences - was "I have nothing smart to say to you".

At this point, I cannot go through more emotional upheavals. What I am going to say is very selfish, but sadly it is true, I have gratitude the epicenter of the earthquake was not closer to - or in - Lebanon. We are already going through a "serie noire" in Lebanon to which I cannot add anything.