Hanady Salman

This will probably be my last letter to you

This will probably be my last letter to you. I will miss you all. Some of you I never met, but I feel that you are all so close to me. More than that, you probably already know it — without you I would not have made it throughout this hell. You were there by my side and that made me stronger. Every day, you gave more meaning to all this — peoples’ stories were heard, peoples’ suffering was shared. This was what I could do for my people: tell some of their stories. Knowing that you would listen, knowing that you would care made the whole difference. 

A short-lived celebration

Everybody was clapping in the street half an hour ago. I looked from my window to find out the reason — the electricity was back. I was sitting in my office, sweating, trying to meet my deadline and to keep the mosquitoes away at the same time. The clapping in the street meant I was able to turn the AC on. But then my neighbors were clapping again. What now? Did Brazil win the world cup? No. It was Al Jazeera. It reported that Israel accepted an emergency cease fire. Well, so we’ll have a break tomorrow? This was what I wrote yesterday night, but I didn’t send it because my colleagues and I were waiting for the UN Security Council resolution to be voted on and we stayed in the office till about 3 a.m. The answer to yesterday’s question came today. 

It was the rescuer who separated them

When I went home last night, I rushed to Kinda’s bed as usual. I pulled her arm and kissed her hand. For a second, I thought that her arm remained in my hand. Her small white arm left her shoulder and was in my hand. Suddenly she became parts and bits. Her foot was at one end of the bed, her leg was at the other. Parts and bits. My baby is nothing but parts and bits. Now, today, she is still in one piece. What is it that will prevent them from tearing her apart? What is it I can do to prevent them from tearing her apart? Baby Waad has in her mother’s arms. She stayed there when the building fell on them. It was the rescuer who separated them. 


A man steps inside his house. It’s a nice house, overlooking the beach. The man, however, doesn’t even look towards the window. He rushes to the kitchen, hugs his wife, takes his daughter into his arms, and makes funny faces to his toddler, trying to make him smile. The man looks tired, he hasn’t shaved in a while, and he certainly needs a shower. He takes a shower, eats lunch with his family, hands his wife a sum of money and goes to bed. The wife calls the children to go with her to the supermarket: they’ll shop for food and toys from the husband’s wage. The dad is an Israeli soldier. He works hard, Marwa knows that. 

We're still alive, despite last night

We’re still alive, despite last night. They were busy bombing Gaza, South Lebanon and Baalback, until 3:14 am — that was when they started hitting the outskirts of Beirut. Twelve, thirteen air strikes? I stopped counting at the twelfth strike and fell asleep. Don’t ask me how, I don’t know. My husband and “my refugees” were out on the balcony trying to locate the new targets, but I stayed in bed. I had a terrible migraine and couldn’t even open my eyes. I’d open them only with every new explosion, and listen to the correspondent on TV specifying the number and targets of each. They were all falling on Ouzai, south of Beirut. 

Four-year-old Qana survivor's night between the dead

Three of my colleagues went to Tyre today. I will spare you the details of what they saw and wrote. There’s only one thing that I need to share with you. Saada went to Jabal Amel hospital where she found a four year old boy, Hassan Chalhoub, who had spent the previous night in the morgue between the dead. He had been sleeping next to his sister, six-year-old Zeinab, in the shelter in Qana. There with him were his mom and his dad, who’s confined to a wheelchair. Many of the people of Qana are survivors of the 1996 massacre, when 110 people were killed and more than 100 were injured when by Israeli raids on civilians who had sought shelter in a nearby UN base. Thus, many of the people of Qana have special needs. 

Not a particularly good day

Yesterday was not a particularly good day. I was completely devastated, and had a lot ot do. First I had to take care of Oum Mostafa, a 75-year-old Egyptian lady who cleans houses in Lebanon since I’m guessing the ’70s. My friend Leila said we’d better get her out of here, she doesn’t have to go through all this. She’s not feeling well and she’s getting poorer every day because no one wants to hire an old lady who can barely move to clean their house. I don’t think you want me to describe to you the room (is it a room? It’s something with a roof on the top of it) where she lives. 

Pity the living and the days to come

Everything in Beirut was so calm I even went home for lunch. There were ongoing airstrikes on the south but no reports of causalities yet. Kinda wanted to come with me to the office when she saw that I was going back there. The minute we reached the street, we heard the sounds of four huge consecutive explosions. I don’t remember what I did - maybe I jumped - but when I looked at Kinda she was pale. It took her two seconds to get back down to earth and say the magic words “boom boom ha ha”. And she kept repeating that for five minutes, automatically. She was not smiling. She was asking, “Boom boom ha ha ?”. 

"The only thing she keeps asking about is Ahmad"

She’s much prettier than her pictures, Hweiyda, despite what they did to her. The one safe eye she still has is green, sad, and beautiful. The stitches that go all the way down from her right eye to underneath her neck are almost as deep as the look in her eye. She was sitting on her bed, very silent, very small, so small. Her aunt was trying to get her to eat. Jelly, custard, cheese, chocolate, fresh orange juice. There was everything on that tray. But only when she saw the books my colleagues brought her did she have something that looked like a twinkle in her eye. The one eye they left her. 

What will happen to us when this is all over?

I get up, fix breakfast for my own personal refugees, and start my daily phone marathon (don’t tell them land lines are still working). I start with Saida; she tells me the bombing was far from their house. She did not synchronize with her son who told me a mall very close to their house was hit. I call my friend in the north: all is fine. My other friend in west Bekaa: they brought a factory down that used to build pre-fabricated houses and hangars and export them to Iraq. But that wasn’t all. Some miracle happened early this morning it seems, when the shelling spared Al Hanane Institution where tens of orphans live; the whole area was bombed like hell.