On 4 August 2020, Tharwat Noureddine was at her apartment in Bourj Hammoud with her two daughters. At around 17:40, she sent a message to her brother Ayman, an officer in the Lebanese army who had been stationed at Beirut Port for a month and a half. Ten minutes later, he replied with a simple “Okay”.

At 18:07, an explosion shakes Tharwat’s apartment. She sits on the floor in the corridor screaming. Her oldest daughter comes out of the shower shaking. The family gets dressed and runs down the stairs. Tharwat sends a message to her mother Nada, who lives on Mar Elias St., to check on her.

Nada goes out onto the street. She hears people talking about an explosion nearby. She re-enters her apartment and turns on the TV. The news reports an explosion at Beirut Port. She tries to call Ayman, who is her youngest son, but he does not reply. She sends him a message: “Ayman, Ayman, Ayman, Habibi”.

Tharwat and her two daughters arrive at her parents’ apartment. She communicates with her siblings via the family WhatsApp group. She has a sister in southern Lebanon, another in Kuwait, and a brother in Germany. They call Ayman’s phone, which is off, and then the office landline. Someone answers and says that Ayman is busy evacuating the injured. A while later, when they have still not heard from Ayman, they fear he is hurt.

Relatives and friends search for him at the port and in hospitals around Beirut. Tharwat goes to the Military Hospital in Badaro, which is packed with people waiting for news about their loved ones. At the emergency room, the sight is horrific. She sees blood everywhere but does not find Ayman. She goes home.

Early the next morning, Tharwat returns to the Military Hospital. A general waits for her in his office. He asks her if she remembers any specific marks on Ayman’s body. Then he asks whether she minds giving a DNA sample. She grabs her phone and sends a message to the family group, telling them to book flights to Lebanon. 

Tharwat’s cousin identifies Ayman’s body, but he and the general do not allow her to see it. The following day, she goes back to the hospital and manages to sneak into the morgue. She sees Ayman dead, wrapped in a black bag.

On August 4, Ayman received a call from the military base in Karantina. They asked him to check a fire that had broken out at Warehouse 12 and send them photographs.

Since his death, his nephews and nieces have been sending Ayman WhatsApp messages from their grandmother’s phone. In July 2023, one of the messages read: “Hi Ayman, I miss you (crying face emoji). Why did you leave? I hope you are in a good place now. Bye, I’ll talk to you at night”.

A minute of mourning for the victims of the Beirut Port explosion.

04 . 08 . 2020    18 : 08

04 . 08 . 2020 18 : 08