Families of victims reflect on tragedy one month after Beirut port explosion


On the one-month anniversary of the August 4 Port of Beirut explosions, families of the victims in Lebanon gathered on the side of the highway above the blast site to remember their loved ones with tenderness and cast words of accusation at the government.

At least 191 people died in the blast and some 6,500 were injured. At the commemoration ceremony, names of the victims were written on placards and hung on the wall on the side of the road overlooking the port. Some of the attendees carried flowers – others carried nooses, in a pointed message to the state that they hold responsible for the death of their loved ones.

As the families were gathering to mourn, rescue teams in the nearby Gemmayze neighborhood were still picking through the rubble of a collapsed building in search of potential survivors after a Chilean rescue team detected potential signs of life in the wreckage Thursday using a specially trained search dog and a scanner.

Michele Andoun, the sister of Joe Andoun, a port worker killed in the explosion, said the state had left her brother “buried, like maybe there are still people buried, and they are not searching for them.”

“I lost my brother, Joe Andoun, and that’s not something you can get used to, neither for me nor my brother, nor for my mother and father, nor for his wife and his children, Jenny and Joy, nor for his friends, of which there are many,” she said. “Most importantly, you can’t get used to this country where there is no longer anyone who wants to stay.”

She noted that her brother had had the opportunity to leave the country but had not wanted to.

In the end, she said, “Joe left through a different route, through a very ugly and painful route.”

Their brother, Elie, had still harsher words for those in power.

“We don’t have a state,” he said. “Those who stand accused include the President Michel Aoun, Hassan Nasrallah [leader of Hezbollah] and all the political parties and all of the authorities – they are all the reason for this. All the authorities stand accused.”

A delegation of firefighters arrived to pay respects to the 10 of their colleagues who were killed as they responded to the explosion, and a group of religious leaders representing different sects led the gathering in prayer.
Meanwhile, another gathering lit candles in Martyr’s Square to commemorate the blast.

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