Friday, March 23, 2007

Close encounter with a bomb

Yesterday at 9:30 AM, a janitor found a bomb at the American University of Beirut. Despite the article on is writing, the bomb was not ready to go off. Instead, it consisted of 1 piece of TNT with a wick. The wick was not lit and a detonator was not present, according to AUB statements.

Anyway, what was scary is that I passed the same site at around 9:25, roughly 5 minutes before the bomb was found. That makes me part of the legion of people who have had a similar experience: a close encounter which a bomb.

I noticed this phenomenon after the bombing of Hariri. Suddenly, you heard stories of people who had passed the bomb site minutes before it went off, escaping death as a result. Or you heard stories of people who were supposed to be there exactly when the bomb went off, but luckily got stuck in traffic which delayed them with a few life saving minutes.

A great story was told by the owner of the local grocery store in our mountain village Qartaba. Last summer, he was driving with his supply truck on the highway the morning the Israelis blew up the bridge close to Jbeil. For weeks after, he told all his customers that he could see the bombs falling from his rear view mirror! Just by seconds he had escaped death. Hamdullah, or rather Grace à Dieu since Qartaba is a very Christian town.

He even showed his mesmerized audience a crack in his back door window. Never mind that his 20+ year old car had already plenty of crashes and cracks, but that specific one was due to the explosion. From being the local grocer, he became a Resistance fighter overnight, or at least something very important for he survived a direct attack from the enemy.

Too bad I don’t have a similar spectacular story to tell. Me, I was just driving past to drop of my wife who is a doctor at the American University Hospital and then took the road that passed the place where the bomb was found (close to Issam Fares Hall, next to the hospital).

Thank God / Hamdullah / Grace à Dieu nothing happened. It was only a warning since the bomb was not set to detonate. That also explains why a janitor was able to find it: the perpetrators wanted the notice to reach its destined audience. The bombs you don’t find are the ones you really have to worry about.


Gerard said...

I know this feeling. Every Saturday I passed the fireworks warehouse in Enschede, Netherlands,in the afternoon. By coincidence six years ago I passed in the morning. In the afternoon the warehouse exploded: more than 20 people dead and almost 1000 wounded. And still I could have been one of the wounded: I was watching the fireworks spectacle behind a window at home. After a first big explosion I went down to my wife. As I was on the stairs a second even bigger explosion smashed the exact window that I was behind seconds before... This experience made me laconic to the bomb attacks in Lebanon: there are always so much more people like me than real victims. It are the clashes among groups of people that worry me and keep me and my family in Holland for the time being.