Letter from Beirut: They’re Back

July 12 2006 — Hey everyone just wanted to let you all know that all our friends and family are all O.K. A lot of them are unable to go home in the south since the roads have been destroyed, so we all have friends crashing at our houses in Beirut till things calm down. The situation has been escalating this week but no one thought it would get this far, with air raids a nightly occurrence.

I was at an opening for a tapas bar in Gemmayzeh when the air raids encroached in Damour, Wednesday night, just 15 minutes south of Beirut. We all felt quite uneasy drinking sangria and dancing to the live Cuban salsa band following the flood of SMS messages coming in to tell us all pieces of news. Needless to say we called it an early night.

This morning at 5:30am, I woke to the sounds of Israeli planes coming to hit the airport. We have been set back into the dark ages with power cuts, fuel crisis and Israeli ships controlling the coast and not letting anything come in or go out. Their birds are flying over regularly and we are anxious for the next fall.

All the bridges along the Litani River have been hit. There is not a single bridge south of Lebanon that is still standing. We fear that the northern power stations and the Damascus highway will be bombed tonight.

Many of the embassies are loading up their personnel and taking them across the border to Syria for flights home. Everyone is really panicking. Lebanese boarder security is considering closing the frontier because it is so crowded they can’t keep it under control. People are lined up at the gas stations trying to fill up every last milliliter of space they have left in their tanks, and loading up at grocery stores for basic staples before it all runs out.

Just when the summer tourist season was in full swing and the economy was picking up…it is always the worst timing I guess. School was canceled today, I was supposed to take the kids rock climbing but definitely did not want the liability of taking students out of the city with the current situation.

The community is coming together though, everyone is having news parties at their house, all flipping through the French, British, US, Arab and Spanish news stations to see if anyone hears of anything else first.

Even my neighborhood DVD rental spot has transformed into the “Sadat social club”, with everyone renting movies preparing for a few nights in, all catching up with each other and really taking the time to listen when asked “how are you?”

My pops came over for a late lunch and some shesh besh (“backgammon”). We are just going to chill. The international documentary festival is still going on so we will all loose ourselves in other people’s problems for a bit.

If the power is cut then the Internet and phone lines will be out. Keep in mind though that bad news travels fast, so don’t fret if you do not hear anything.

If you are looking for any good articles or reporters for some unbiased reports, tap into Kim Ghatas, the BBC correspondent for Lebanon.

Keep us in your thoughts.

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Renee Codsi is a 29-year-old Lebanese American who came to Beirut in June 2002. Codsi is a Marine Biologist and International Educator teaching environmental sciences and outdoor education at the American Community School of Beirut and coordinating an environmental and education program sponsored by NASA called GLOBE (Global Learning through Observations While Benefiting the Environment) in Lebanon.