As I approached the hospital, elderly patients sat stunned in a wheelchair on the street, still hooked on their IV bags. A woman was lying on the ground in front of the emergency room that exploded, her whole body dripping red, she didn’t move much. It was clear that they weren’t taking on new patients, certainly none relatively lucky like me.
Someone named Youssef saw me, sat me down and started cleaning and wrapping my face. Once he was satisfied that I could walk, he left and I started wandering, trying to think of another hospital I could try.
His roommate swept their terrace while I was bleeding their towels. “I can’t think unless it’s clean,” he explained.
Until then, I had had nothing but the vaguest assumptions about what might have happened. Someone reported that fireworks had gone off at the port. Much later, Lebanese officials acknowledged that a large deposit of explosive material seized by the government years ago was being stored where the explosions occurred.
The survivors passed, moving faster than the blocked traffic. To anyone who appeared unharmed, people shouted “alhamdulillah al-salama” or, loosely translated, thank God for your safety.
Before the evening was over, after my colleagues found me, after a passing driver named Ralph offered to take us to one of the few hospitals that still accepted patients, after a doctor put 11 staples on me. forehead and another splash on my leg and arms, people were saying the same thing to me: thank God for your safety.
“Thank you,” I said in response, “really thank you,” and I didn’t just mean good wishes.