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32 Years After Civil War, Mundane Moments Trigger Awful Memories


“Cards were my childhood, how can I hate them?” Raoul said recently. “And you were the best.”

One night, while Raúl was sleeping – his bedroom window had a dining table on which to protect him from snipers – the bombing began. His mother cried for him, and looked madly until they found Raul, then 5, weeping as he embraced a framed picture of the Virgin Mary who had fallen from the wall, praying for his life. He developed a stutter after that.

When I left Lebanon, I left. “I just took my bum with me,” said Raoul, who has been living in the United Arab Emirates and Poland since leaving Lebanon. “That is it. This is the baggage I carried with me.”

I was lucky. I didn’t grow up in Lebanon, at least not full time, as my father worked abroad, waiting for the war to end and the chance to return.

Yet every summer, no matter what happened — an Israeli invasion, a suicide bombing that killed hundreds of US Marines — we’d come back to be with our family and hold hands and say: We haven’t abandoned you. This was the survivor’s most perverted guilt, a role I played every summer until we returned to Lebanon in the early 1990s when I was ten.

We had close calls during those summer visits. In 1985, I took my mom and siblings for a errand and pulled off the highway to take another route. Seconds later, a massive explosion occurred where our car was parked, killing at least 50 people. We saw the wounded fleeing, with blood streaming down their faces.

Many have been left wondering how their adult lives would have been better if their childhoods were different.

For Abed Bibi, 58, who is married to a friend of mine, he can’t stand the darkness.