BEIRUT: Hundreds of mourners gathered at St George’s Hospital University Medical Center Wednesday morning to honor the one-year anniversary of the mammoth explosion at Beirut Port that devastated the hospital, killing staff and patients.
A memorial service was led by Metropolitan Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi along with 10 other priests, with prayers and Bible readings to remember the lives of the 22 people who died at the hospital from the impact of the explosion on Aug. 4, 2020.
Hospital physicians, nurses and staff as well as family and friends of the victims gathered in the newly refurbished reception of the hospital. A table was laid at the front with photographs of the four nurses who died - Jessica Bezdjian, Jessica Kahwaji, Mireille Germanos and Lina Abou Hamdan. The table was decorated with wreaths and bread, as is traditional at a Greek Orthodox service.
“The hospital was shattered from the explosion and the ceiling collapsed on whoever was inside, leaving hundreds injured, including nurses, visitors and doctors,” Audi said to the audience. “But the will of life was stronger and the belief was even stronger and everyone, even those injured ran to help.”
The hospital in Rmeil was turned into a disaster zone within seconds when hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate exploded at the port, just 900 meters away. The hospital suffered extensive damage to every floor with hundreds of staff members and patients wounded. Twelve patients and a hospital visitor were killed.
Audi also mentioned the investigation into the port blast that has yet to yield answers a year later, and has been hampered by uncooperative officials and politicians, leaving Lebanese without closure or justice.
“To know the facts and who did this will help us heal our sadness and pain that we have been living in ... we need to know who is behind this and we are praying and requesting they continue with the investigation, because we all deserve to know the truth.”
Commenting on Lebanon’s ruling class who have been evading the investigation, Audi said, “They should know too that there is no one above the law, and whoever is responsible for impeding the investigation is a criminal too.”
The service ended with songs and a video that replayed CCTV footage from the moment of the explosion on Aug. 4, 2020, as well as interviews with hospital staff who were at the scene. It depicted the severe devastation to wards and corridors as the force of the blast ripped out ceilings and doors, smashed windows and destroyed hospital equipment, battering anyone in the vicinity.
Jehan Sader, a St. George’s nurse who spoke at the ceremony, said she hoped “Lebanon will come back to life” and asked the audience to light a candle “so Lebanon as we know it, can stand on its feet again.”