Where Were You on February 14 2005?

Ten years have gone by since our former prime minister Rafic Harriri was killed in a horrific car bombing that shook our whole lives.

None of us were ever the same again.

Lebanon was never the same again.

Photo credit: Reuters

Now before you think this is a politically inclined post, it is not.

I am not commenting on the man and his stances or actions. Far too many news outlets will be doing this all weekend long. It’s neither my job nor my concern.

Whatever ideology you wish to support, you can’t deny this was a turning point in our history, much like the Lebanese Civil War.

And like the war, it will leave a long-lasting impact on us all. Our grandparents and parents are always asked where they were when our country was at war and how they coped.

This generation, my own, will be asked, where were you on February 14 2005?

And we will continue to recount that story because no matter how you look at it, that assassination changed how we view the world and how we feel about Lebanon. I know that to be true because it’s happened on multiple occasions in gatherings and was even an assignment for one of my Creative Writing classes.

For me, I lost a bit of my innocence that day. Up until that point, I had never believed hatred could manifest itself in such an ugly way. I never thought someone could shake up a whole country because of politics.

I was 14 years old, a ninth grader. I was due to sit for my first official exams that summer and I was terrified (I did extremely well). I was also into writing poetry instead of focusing on math class (a habit I could not shake off until I graduated) and I was crushing on a guy. Normal 14 year old concerns.

That day I was in school. I had a seat by the window and had a view of the sea and bits of AUB. Many times I caught myself daydreaming. That day was no exception.

I cannot forget how we had the window half open as we took our English lesson. It was a bright and sunny day but a bit chilly. And everything seemed normal.

Normal didn’t last very long. There was a strong gust of wind that managed to knock me off my seat and push me against my desk mate who fell too. I cant remember how we knew but we figured something was wrong.

It’s quite a whirl, but after we saw the smoke, one of my classmates turned on the television in our class and we patiently and anxiously awaited the news: where did it happen, who was targeted, who did it, why did it happen, would we be okay, would Lebanon ever be the same again? This all was happening at a time when the majority of us did not have cellphones and even if they did, we were not allowed to bring them to school.

In the midst of all the chatter and the talk and the anxiety, I was scared. I was trying to take everything in while trying to hold back tears. A lot of tears were shed that first week after the bombing. I was scared because where we safe anymore in our country? Could we go to school without feeling targeted or attacked? What was going to happen after they killed a man who had made so many promises?

That day, the school let us out early, something that they would never do. Somehow, I still don’t know how, my mother was waiting there to pick my sister and I up. I still remember that she didn’t take a deep breath until we reached the house, locked the door, and she told everyone we were home safe. She, too, was anxious and scared.

Everything had shut down for three days of mourning: we didn’t leave the house which was fully stocked, and if anyone were to change the non-stop news coverage for something less ominous and sad, they would get yelled at. My family is from Beirut so a lot of tears were shed and a lot of prayers were said- we felt like this had hit us straight in our core.

We sat there for days trying to make sense of the tragedy and to this day, sadly, we still don’t have any answers.

That first year after the assassination was a strange year. Friends and classmates started making plans to attend the ongoing demonstrations as though they were going to the movies: except with a bit more purpose and determination. We were still anxious, but knew all the patriotic songs and some point, and we had all visited the burial site in Downtown Beirut and prayed- something we would later joke about.

We all became a bit more aware of it meant to be a citizen of a country and to be hopeful for better days to come.

But on the flip-side, and like I said above, a lot of innocence was lost that day. Before Rafic Harriri was killed I had no interest in knowing what the sects of the guys and girls I interacted with daily were. Suddenly it seemed all that mattered: us vs them, them vs us and so on. Talks of politics, no doubt influenced by our environments, because come on, we were 14 and 15 years old, started to circulate more often.

Then year after year, all the fervor started to fizzle out. There were so many events and so many attacks that it just seemed so hard to gather it all up and try to make sense of it all.

Yes, I still believe we can make a change, but at what expense and to what expense?

It’s been ten years today and the events of that day cannot be erased from our collective memory. We can only continue to hope and do things that can positively change our country. Instead of nagging how bad things are, I wish that national enthusiasm would come back to truly change the state we’re in.


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