On 4 August 2020, late in the afternoon, Ghassan Hasrouty phoned his wife Ibtissam and had a long chat with her. He was supposed to come home for lunch, but he had been held back at work at Beirut Port, where he managed the silos’ operations room. He would spend the night at the port and asked her to send him a pillow and blanket with his son-in-law.

After they hung up, Ibtissam lay on the sofa in the living room at their home in Sin el-Fil. Her daughter Ramona, who was nine months pregnant, and her husband napped inside while Tatiana, her youngest daughter, slept in her bed.

At 18:07, a double explosion shakes the building. The windows shatter across the apartment. Tatiana rushes into the living room and turns the TV on. A few minutes later, they watch footage of a terrifying explosion at the port. Ibtissam freezes. Tatiana screams, “Baba!” They try to call Ghassan, but there is no response.

At the family’s other home in the Chouf mountains, their son Elie grabs his phone and scrolls through the news on social media. He calls his family. They tell him that his father is at work. He phones his father several times in vain. He gets into his car and drives to Beirut.

At home, the family divided the tasks: Some people called hospitals while others shared that Ghassan was missing on social media. Their home was packed with friends and relatives who had decided to help search for him in the hospitals across the city.

It was a couple of days later that the machines started clearing the rubble near Ghassan’s work. Elie counted the bodies as they were found one by one. Five days later, while his father was still missing, the army announced that it had stopped looking for survivors. The families of the missing objected; they did not want the digging done without any consideration for the possibility that the missing were still alive. “We are humans. We are not numbers. Up until the last day, we insisted on discovering his fate, and until the last minute, we were adamant that he might be alive. We cannot declare a person dead without any proof”, Elie explains.

On the eighth day, the last two bodies were found. Elie was sure that his father was one of them, but he waited for the DNA tests. On the fourteenth day, he received a call informing him that the DNA of one of the two bodies matched.

Ghassan had worked at the port for four decades. He dreamed of retiring to the village with his wife, of working in his garden surrounded by his children and their families.

He was buried on August 20. Ramona couldn’t attend the funeral. Her baby was born on August 10, while the search for her father was still underway.

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

04 . 08 . 2020    18 : 08

04 . 08 . 2020 18 : 08