On 4 August 2020, Issam Ata had lunch with his brother Abdo and their friend Chadi Abi Chacra at Abdo’s home. The two brothers lived in Achrafieh in an 1886 three-story building that belonged to their family. Years ago, Issam renovated the ground floor to make it his own. Abdo continued to live in the first-floor apartment, where they had grown up with their parents, and Abdo’s twin sister Helene now lived with her family on the second floor. After lunch, Issam went down to his house to rest.

Early in the evening, Issam heard fireworks detonating nearby. A loud explosion followed. 

At 18:07, Issam hears Chadi, who is deaf-mute, screaming from the balcony above. Issam rushes out of his home and toward Abdo’s when, suddenly, he feels a strong pressure wave and the deafening roar of a second explosion shakes the building.

Minutes later, Issam wakes up on the floor, covered in dust and rubble. He cannot move his leg; the building has collapsed, and his foot is stuck under the debris. A slither of light filters in through a gap above. He tries to figure out what happened when he hears a voice nearby. He screams for help.

A few hours later, rescuers arrive. He asks about Abdo and Chadi, and they tell him that both are safe and receiving treatment at a nearby hospital.

At 11:19 on August 5, Issam’s foot is released, and his rescuers manage to pull him from the destroyed building. They take him directly to a hospital nearby, where surgeons operate on his foot.

Two days later, Issam learns that when the rescuers reached Abdo and Chadi a few hours after the explosion, both were dead.

Abdo was buried on Sunday, five days after he died.

Several months after the explosion, Issam traveled to the United States for a second surgery. Yet he still suffers from pain and numbness in his foot.
Three years later, the building still lies in ruins. Issam visits it on holidays. “My childhood was there… People don’t understand the memories I have there… Abdo is still there. The spirit of Abdo is in the house… Everybody is still in the house: my father, my mother, me, Abdo, Helene, my friends. We are all still in the house. I am speaking on a higher level… Our higher selves are still there… Our souls are still in the home.”

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

04 . 08 . 2020    18 : 08

04 . 08 . 2020 18 : 08