Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Short Stories of the 75-76 War

Yesterday, April 13, found many Lebanese bloggers trading stories about the civil war. And with Ecce Libano adding pressure, I had to blog. Two anecdotes that in my mind illustrate the horrible, the half-way decent, and the touching found in all wars.

During 75-76, when every lull was taken to be a return to normalcy, Nouhad and four other passengers were in a Mercedes-service that fatefully got stopped by militiamen near the Museum (Mat7af).

The militiamen asked for ID papers (which in Lebanon have an item revealing one's religion/sect).

Nouhad tells the story: Out the car window went the arm with the ID papers. In the same car window came a knife slitting the throat of the man sitting right next to him. All he remembers after that is blood and a voice calling his name; "Nouhad! Is that you? What are you doing here?" One of the militiamen had recognized him from pre-war days when they used to meet at a soccer stadium (to root for different local teams). The voice then said: "Get out of the car, turn around, and run."

Nouhad was in no mood or shape to argue. Shaking from his toes to his eyebrows, Nouhad got out of the car, turned around, and ran and ran and ran. He ran until the street stopped at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, in Raouche.

I don’t know how he did not dive in the water and swim his way to Cyprus. Had it been me, I would have broken all known triathlon records.

To me, the "random" killings in the streets by murderers and/or by shelling was the scariest and most appalling aspect of our people and of the war. Militia leaders all publicly denounced the practice, but I could not care less about their words. Not one of those leaders, NOT ONE, ever caught one of their own guilty men or tried to control them.

A story I remember more fondly, in the aftermath of the horrors described above:

The racetrack (horse racing) had been closed for over two years, when an attempt was made to re-open it. The racetrack is located near the Museum, the dividing line of Beirut at the time. The track had always been a very popular meeting spot. A little vice goes a long way in getting people together.

So after two years of East and West Beiruti unable to meet, neither in downtown (war zone) nor at the racetrack, the latter reopened one glorious Sunday afternoon. There were tearful and emotional reunions.

Later that afternoon, H.-the-barber (as he was known to us) had the word of the day: "It was wonderful, I saw friends I had not seen in a long time. And the best part: no one asked me what's your religion (chou dinak)? They asked me who's your horse (min 7sanak)?"