A now viral video of bride Israa Seblani posing for her wedding photos when the Beirut explosion hits is a powerful reminder of the faces behind the headlines. Warning: this article contains video footage some readers may find distressing.
By now, you’ve probably seen the horrifying videos of the massive explosion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, which killed at least 135 and injured more than 5,000. The blast, which was reportedly caused by 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate which had been stored at the city’s port, has resulted in an estimated three to five billion US dollars’ worth of damage, and left over 300,000 people homeless.
Although the videos of the explosion itself give us some insight into what happened on the ground, it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to experience such a terrifying event.
Scrolling through our social media feeds, it’s all too easy to see the disaster as one catastrophic event, rather than a life-changing experience for the thousands of people affected. We might share our thoughts and prayers and donate money to various relief funds (which is, of course, important), but after that, many of us will move on without taking the time to think about the reality for people on the ground.
In a video which has now been shared widely on social media, Lebanese bride Israa Seblani is pictured smiling and posing for wedding photos. But just as the photographer pans in on the detail in her dress, the roar of the explosion knocks her and the photographer to the side. The end of the video captures a final shot of Seblani as she flees the square (it’s worth noting that both Seblani and her wedding photographer Mahmoud Nakib were unharmed and managed to walk to safety).
Seblani, who is a doctor working in the United States, first helped to check on the injured nearby before fleeing to safety with her husband.
Speaking to Reuters after the event, Seblani and her husband, Ahmad Subeih, said they had tried to compose themselves to continue their wedding celebrations after the explosion, but said they were still struggling to comprehend what had actually happened.
“I have been preparing for my big day for two weeks and I was so happy like all other girls, ‘I am getting married’,” Seblani said. “My parents are going to be happy seeing me in a white dress, I will be looking like a princess.”
Seblani continued: “My husband told me to continue, we can’t stop. I was like okay, why not, we continue. I was not living the moment actually, I was like walking, my face was smiling, my lips were smiling, that’s it, not more. Then we went to have a dinner.
“There is a lot of damage, many people were killed and wounded. But also if I want to look at us, myself, my husband, the photographer - how we escaped unharmed, I thank God for protecting us.”
Besides the fact that Seblani’s story is incredibly moving, the video itself serves as a reminder that events such as the one in Beirut are not simply news stories to be read and forgotten, but events which will continue to shape lives for years to come.
Indeed, not only does the video demonstrate the terrifying power of the explosion, but it’s also a damning reminder of the life-changing impact the disaster has had on hundreds of thousands of people across the city. And that’s something we shouldn’t forget.
How to help the people of Beirut right now
We’ve collated a series of resources below for people looking for more information on the situation on Beirut and wondering how they can help.
Educate yourself on the ongoing crises in Lebanon
This Instagram post from The Slacktivists is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the context of the Beirut disaster and the problems in Lebanon which have been exacerbated by Covid-19.
Follow Impact Lebanon and donate to their disaster relief fund
Impact Lebanon is a UK-based non-profit organisation that supports initiatives designed to help or impact Lebanon. They are currently running a Disaster Relief Fundraiser to fund local NGOs and charities in Beirut – the first $100,000 of the fund has already been donated to the Lebanese Red Cross.
Support the Lebanese Food Bank
The financial crisis in Lebanon had already left many people in the country in poverty, so the impact of the explosion will make it even harder for people to access essential supplies such as food. The Lebanese Food Bank, based in Beirut, is working to provide food to those in the area trying to recover from the disaster.
Donate to the Lebanese Red Cross
The Lebanese Red Cross are the main providers of ambulances in the country, and have also been building temporary shelters and providing basic food and hygiene kits to those in need.