sábado, 28 de abril de 2012

Bullets over Beirut

One thing that I love about having visitors over is that they remind me of the things I used to find incredible about Beirut, and that I have grown accostumed to over the years.

So I was very "amused" at first when my family asked me to stop the car to see buildings filled with bullet holes. I guess it has become so common for me to see them that I barely notice them now. My family wanted to take photos.* They wanted to know what the story behind the building and the bullets was.

Little by little, I started remembering how impressed and scared I was at the sight of bullet holes when I first arrived to Beirut. Because of what those holes meant.  With my family here, every time we saw a building filled with little holes there was silence in the car for a moment and someone would ask me "Are those... bullets as well?"

That crazy egg stucture in downtown. The Holiday Inn. The tower as you go up towards Achrafieh. These are buldings I pass very often. And I have just stopped noticing.

Why did I get used to bullet holes?

Was it because there are so many? Was it because I never witnessed the actual moment when the bullet pierced the wall? Was it because I just stopped caring?

One of the highlights of my family's visit was the walking tour around Beirut with Ronnie. I never miss a chance to introduce my family to this fellow, whom so eloquently explains the history of his city.

One of my favourite parts about the tour is the bit about Martyr's Square. There is something about the place that is so moving. There is the history yes, this is a site of protest and where the Lebanese come when they want change. But there is something about the statue in Martyr's Square that just brings tears to my eyes.

Source: TripAdvisor

The lady with the torch represents freedom. The fellow she is holding represents Lebanon. You can see the statue is filled with bullet holes. It has become a symbol of everything that was destroyed in Beirut during the civil war. I think this statue represents the city, the country, so well. The fellow is filled with holes, has lost an arm, but keeps standing. And for one reason or the other his bullet holes haven't been "repaired". Like all the other bullet-studded buildings. Like so many other things in the country, including the people.

I have met so many people who walk this city with their bullet holes, real or metaphorical, still piercing, still acking. So many who have learned to live with bullet holes inside of them, and have forgotten, like me, to notice the bullet holes all around us.

I really hope we won't see any new bullet holes anytime soon. But I mostly hope we won't grow unsenstive to what they mean. They are not trivial. They are not to go unnoticed. Those holes mean someone or something was killed. Slowly or instantly, phisically or metaphorically. Those bullets were meant to anihilate something. A person's joy, freedom, feeling of safety, compassion, or even life.

Those little holes are reminders. Of what has happened, and might still happen in Beirut. And when fighting might seem like a good idea, I wish we will all look around and see the bullet holes. And remember that they could so easily happen again.

*Thanks to M for letting me use his gorgeous photos from his trip to Beirut!

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