On 4 August 2020, Ajwad Shayya and his wife Afaf spoke to their son Jawad when he finished his duty at around 16:00. He was a Military Intelligence adjutant stationed at Gate 3 of Beirut Port and had left home early in the morning the previous day to work for four days. On the phone, Afaf begged Jawad to be careful and keep his mask on around his colleagues. She worried that he would catch COVID-19.

Late in the afternoon, as they each lay on a sofa in the sitting room at their apartment in Bayssour, they heard an explosion.

At 18:07, seconds later, another loud explosion shakes the village. Ajwad thinks the Israelis must have bombed some targets nearby. They turn the TV on. The news reports an explosion at the prime minister’s office in downtown Beirut. Ajwad calls his nephew and brother, who work near the area, to check on them. Minutes later, the news anchor confirms that the explosion was at Beirut Port. Ajwad freezes, looks at his wife, and says, “Jawad has been martyred”.

They both try calling Jawad. The lines do not connect. After a few attempts, the phone rings, but no one answers.

Ajwad’s brother picks him up, and they drive toward Beirut. Relatives and friends follow. They separate into teams and search all the hospitals on their way to the capital.

Ajwad calls everybody who might have information about his son’s situation or whereabouts. He learns that Jawad was evacuated and taken to Hotel Dieu Hospital. They head there, park their car, and make their way through shattered glass and destruction.

At the hospital, Ajwad searches various rooms for his son. Not finding Jawad among the injured, he searches the morgue. The sight he sees there is terrible: children, women, elderly…

At 22:00, he receives a call from an officer; the news is not good, but the search is ongoing. An hour later, he receives another call. Jawad is dead.

That night, Ajwad went directly home and sat with his family and relatives. He hid the news of Jawad’s death until 5:00.

Later, Ajwad received a surveillance-camera photo of his son at the port with a fire blazing in the background. He was heading to help the firefighters extinguish the fire at Warehouse 12.

“They ruined our lives. We have not enjoyed a meal since Jawad’s death. We do not attend any wedding or funeral. I do not even listen to music. I have not listened to the CD that Jawad had in his car”, Ajwad says.

Jawad was buried on August 6, one day before his birthday. He would have turned 31.

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

04 . 08 . 2020    18 : 08

04 . 08 . 2020 18 : 08