On August 4th, Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, experienced a devastating explosion, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands. Many buildings in the near vicinity were completely destroyed and the city sustained widespread damage. According to UNICEF, “at least 12 primary healthcare facilities, maternal, immunization and newborn centers in Beirut have been damaged, impacting services for nearly 120,000 people.” Further, a children’s hospital, “which had a specialized unit treating critical newborns, was destroyed.” Although many other buildings and homes were also destroyed or damaged, the loss of the hospitals and health care clinics, during the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the city.
Although the disaster was tragic to say the least, it revealed true heroism within ordinary people who value human life. Because of this, it is worth highlighting and commending some of these heroes who went above and beyond to protect mothers and babies during the Beirut explosion.
Edmond Khnaisser filmed the Beirut explosion in the hospital where his wife was being prepared to give birth. The video he gave to BBC World News shows the hospital’s windows burst and destroy the hospital room. Khnaisser, who rushed to help his laboring wife, stated that he was concerned for both his wife and their unborn child as the ceiling had fallen down upon them. He rushed to remove his wife’s bed out of the room and then proceeded to help the nurses and doctors. Despite the horrific shock, Khnaisser’s wife gave birth shortly after the explosion, in what he called an “old style” labor without medicine. Thankfully, Edmond’s wife, Emmanuelle, and their newborn son, George, were saved along with the nurses and doctors.
To watch the video, click here.
A Heroic Unidentified Nurse
A photojournalist by the name of Bilal Jawich left his home to document the explosion when he saw smoke coming from the Beirut port. As Jawich neared the port, he came across a nurse carrying three newborn babies. He took a remarkable photo of the nurse and the babies and later, he talked to the nurse and heard her story. According to Jawich in an article by CNN, the unidentified nurse had been working in the maternity ward when the explosion occurred. She was knocked unconscious due to the blast and when she recovered, she “found herself carrying these three children.” This nurse exhibited extreme self-sacrifice and courage in the face of disaster. In a Facebook post made by Jawich, he commended the heroic actions of the nurse saying, “16 years of press photography and lots of wars, I can say I didn’t see what I saw today in Ashrafia area, especially in front of the rum hospital and this ‘heroine’ caught me inside the hospital and was accelerating to call despite the suspension of communication holding three newborn babies and surrounded by dozens of bodies and wounded.” The efforts of this nurse were truly remarkable as she stepped up to save the lives of the vulnerable infants amidst total chaos. In an interview with CNN, Jawich reported that the nurse “looked like she possessed a hidden force that gave her self-control and the ability to save those children. People stand out amidst these violent and dark and evil circumstances and this nurse was up to the task.” The hospital where the nurse worked experienced damage to 80% of their building and 50% of their medical equipment, showing how her heroic deeds were unmistakably necessary.
These two instances of heroism show the self-sacrifice people are willing to endure for the sake of protecting vulnerable lives. During a disaster that will go down in history, these heroes will never be forgotten.