Reporter in Arabic: “BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! There’s been a war! The Israelis have sacked Lebanon! Ladies and Gentlemen, there has been an unexpected war between us and the Israelis. Everyone take shelter and get out of the country if possible.” That’s right! The reporter had told everyone to seek shelter immediately. Not only was the news giving us warnings, but the mosque’s loud speakers for call to prayers were turned into intercoms for giving announcements. That’s how bad it was. Summer vacation lost, in ashes.
I’d just really started to learn about my Lebanese, Phoenician/Arabian ancestry and culture. I was only 5 and a half years old. However, the half never made much of a difference on how bombarded and horrified I felt and was. I, being, such a young child didn’t realize how badly this war was going to impact me and how it was going to affect me pretty much for the rest of my life. Not only did I develop night terrors, PTSD, and other things but I also became more of an introvert and a mommy’s girl. Back to the beginning of the story, It was my mom and I, no siblings yet, my father in the states. Once we got the news, we knew we had to flee out of the country as soon as possible. However, we were told that the only way to get back to the states was through a series consisting of many different means of transportation including military planes, ships, boats, and who knows what. The airport was sacked so there was no way we could’ve returned to the states the normal way. I remember feeling quite confused, quite astonished.
Once we got on our first military plane, I remember having an enormous bag full of snacks, gummies, treats, and other sweets. I remember some families, some poor ones, would come take some treats from my bag (of course, asking my mother first). I remember how loud the sound of the military plane was. It’s sound was like no other. Very loud. I could see the pilot driving the plane from where I was sitting. I could see everything, perhaps my own feelings too.
I remember one of our stops being in Cyprus/Greece. It was a beautiful, glorious place. I remember seeing the homes from the plane. They were color coordinated and were vibrant. The body of water was also quite majestic. It reminded me that there was still order in this crazy world.
We also had to go aboard a series of ships. These boats were huge. I remember much from it. I remember being out on the deck where people were camping out in tents for survival. I remember asking my mom why a fair-haired girl was leaning amongst the deck into a net, literally almost reaching the water (this boat wasn’t that high in particular). I asked if I could do the same thing. My mother replied with a no and an indication that it would be highly dangerous of a thing to do. On another boat, I remember being in a room with bunk beds along with another Lebanese family. I remember it was a mom with her 2 daughters (1 of them was a few years older and 1 was my around my age I believe). The older one was carrying a Nintendo DS and was playing with it. I remember feeling the need to have one since it had just came out and revolutionized the handheld device gaming industry. I asked my mom if I could have one and she told me, “Inshallah” (God-willing in Arabic). I remember feeling so jealous. I wanted one so badly.
At another room on the boat, there was a huge crowded room full of families sitting on the ground together. In particular, I remember seeing one mother with her kids and her husband I think. She was treating her younger child with betadine since he had a bruise on his knee. I remember feeling the need to want some even though I don’t vividly remember ever getting a bruise at that time. I also remember the lady had a big jar of nutella and she had offered me some. Something about me at that moment was full of despair and sense of diminishing hope was bestowed upon me. I remember going through numerous stops where I met numerous people and saw places such as shelter-like places and cities throughout our journey back to our other home, Charlotte. One very special stop that I’ll never forget was when we were in this room with a bunch of Lebanese soldiers who I deeply thank their service for. I remember one of them handing me a 2006 Olympics bear that I still hold onto to this very day. I remember when we we’re heading onto one of the ships, I was deeply frightened and a police officer had to carry me, a tall but fragile five year old girl.
Another event I’ll never forget is when my mother and I we’re about to board this other ship and she was rushing and telling me to get on. I remember we had other Lebanese people we had just met with us and we we’re running as fast as we could to board the boat. Once we got to the airport, I remember waiting by the gate and seeing a barbie board game box sort-of-thing behind the glass wall of the employees. I vividly remember thinking I want it badly. I want it now. Despite the bombarding I was going through, I still strongly had my child imagination and was seeking for anything to make me happy.
Another stop we made was at the JFK Airport in NYC. I don’t remember too much from this stop besides the fact that it was one step closer to returning to my residence at the time which was Charlotte, North Carolina. One of the primary things I remember about all these stops as a whole was the fact that I felt utterly confused or lost.
Once we got home, I had to overcome a lot of trauma. I was just about to start kindergarten. During my first few months, I had academically performed badly due to my trauma, nightmares, and lack of focus due to my worries and recent troubles. I became extremely scared to sleep alone and became quite a shy kid. My kindergarten teacher just didn’t understand, what it felt like to be a warrior, a fighter. Thus, she was quite harsh on me when it came to my lack of focus and daydreaming within the classroom. However, that all changed once I got better and back on track. I think many people forget that children are the silent victims. Silent victims who are deeply affected but most of the time keep quiet and don’t know how to express their frustration, scares, and worries. Worries that could never be broken. Scares that would take way long too long to go away. Throughout such a journey, I remember just giving blank stares to things and recalling much. I wasn’t able to share every single piece of information into this memoir, but I was able to pinpoint main ideas and how they’ve stayed and connected with me.
Despite the fact that I was born in the US, I’ve always felt like a huge piece of me lies within my original homeland, Lebanon. Despite this horrific incident, I still go every single year. I still have a massive and great desire and yearning to return every single summer. Not only do I enjoy going every year, but I love the way I can definitely feel my roots and history over there. Not only did this experience make me stronger as a person, but I can also go around telling people that I went through this and survived a war. Not many people can say that. That’s for sure.