Tamara Saade’s beautiful essay attempts to make order and meaning from the chaos of the immediate aftermath of the ammonium nitrate explosion at the Port of Beirut in 2020.
It took time until I was ready to watch sunsets again. On the day of the explosion I had looked up at the sky, and seen a pink, orange, and white mushroom cloud. Like many Lebanese, I began experiencing PTSD symptoms in the months following the explosion. When the sky would turn warmer, and I’d see a color palette reminiscent of the sunset, I would get anxious, trying to avoid it. I used to love sunsets. I would chase them across the city, one of the first subjects I learned to photograph. When I lost my father at twelve years old, I grieved by walking the sadness away in the streets of Beirut, looking in the small alleys of my city for the security a parent would provide. I tried to capture sunsets through the lens of the camera I carried everywhere. They were my northern star, my anchor in such an ephemeral life. But August fourth robbed me of the comfort I had always found in the colors of Beirut’s sunsets. I was not alone. So many of us lost what we’d clung to for a sense of stability and safety. Since the explosion, I feel as if I am grieving all over again, mourning the loss of the city that is my home.