I decided to try something different for my blog in November. For 11 days, I’ll post stories from the war that didn’t make it into the recently published Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon.
While recovering from our evacuation experience in July 2006, I wrote a debriefing journal, while memories were still fresh. I predicted that the stress of that time in our lives would erase details that could be helpful to remember later.
I almost incorporated this added information into the email pages of the book, but decided that realism would be ruined and the urgent feeling of their brevity would be lost.
Now I offer you these details as an added-value bonus to supplement the rather sparse treatment found in the book.
15 July 2006
We moved the bags we had packed the night before into the car so they would be already there in case the power went out and there wasn’t any elevator.
While I was putting things into the car, a couple guys I didn’t know came up to us in an animated way that put me on my guard. One of them asked me where we were from. I had no idea what his intentions were, which made me nervous and react poorly. I asked him what difference it made where I was from, and why it was his business. He started ranting that he wanted to know how we were going to get out of the country and tell him how he could too.
He was angry with me, as if I was trying to withhold a possible escape plan from him. He explained that he had a German passport and wanted to know how that would help him. I responded by telling him we had no plan for escape either. “Where can we go? The airport is bombed, the port is closed, and the road to Syria is cut. We’re just trying to find a safer place here.” His buddy finally calmed him down and they walked away.
After packing the bags into the car we struck out on foot, carrying the children, in search of Pampers. A family associated with Hezbollah owned the nearest neighborhood store. The lame proprietor received medical assistance from the social arm of Hezbollah. He had been very interested in some comments I had made about following Jesus on a previous visit. Now they were closed.
We continued around the block to a pharmacy on Abu Deeb street. They were open and had a small package, which we bought. Then we continued on to another pharmacy that we thought might have more, about three blocks down the waterfront from our house.
I couldn’t help but notice on our stroll that we were attracting more interested glances from bystanders than we would have normally. I was carrying Naomi on my shoulders, and many young men were staring me down. We must have looked as though we were completely unconcerned with the current state of affairs and just casually walking around on a shopping trip. At the time, though, I thought I also detected animosity and suspicion in their stares as well.
We made it to the pharmacy and found that they had 3 or 4 large packages of Pampers. They shamed us when we wanted to buy two of them. They didn’t want to sell both of them to us because there would be others who would need them as well as us. We reacted with exasperation, not knowing how long we would be stuck in Tyre and knowing it would be really ugly without diapers. We explained that both of the children wore the same size, so we needed them. They relented and sold them to us in the end and offered to be of any service that they could.
We struggled home under the weight of diapers and children, walking in the humid heat of midday on the corniche. People continued to follow us with their eyes, making us feel uncomfortably conspicuous.
In the end, Kimarie and I both felt guilty at having bought that second package of diapers. They came with us in the car up to Jounieh, and eventually were left in the back of the car unused. How many other children were there in the days that followed in Tyre who had to go without diapers because we hoarded them?
We were able to communicate by email so well because we had a dialup connection with a phone number that would work anywhere in Lebanon. Since there was never a break in phone communication and enough electricity to recharge the laptop, we simply needed to be somewhere where there was a phone outlet.
This was such a blessing to be able to feel like we weren’t completely cut off from the world. The gaps in time for communication corresponded with our car flight from Tyre to Jounieh and with our initial evacuation process from Beirut to the fairgrounds in Cyprus, which took about 36 hours.
Kimarie had to take care of the kids while I composed the messages, and I was very grateful to her for the breaks and a bit of solitude to reflect on the days events. It may have been one of the few things that kept me from mentally breaking down.
At this point we wrongly assumed that the embassy was contacting people who had registered with them, to update them on advice or at least to confirm that they knew where we were. Since we hadn’t received this confirmation, we believed that our registration had not been received and that we were on our own.