It was a normal day for Joseph, after work, as usual, he comes back from his job at the Ministry of Telecommunications, as an employee of 30 years who earns a meagre sum of 2 million Lebanese pounds per month, barely making ends meet. He passes by his family to rest for a while, and then sticks to his daily routine of “neighborhood walks and workouts”.
At 6:07 pm, Joseph’s evening stroll is abruptly disrupted, by the sound of the first explosion at the Port. He runs to hide inside the school facing his house, located within a 1km radius from the port, before the second explosion hits harder and massively obliterate everything around him.
“My neighbour asked me not to look at my leg”
Joseph’s leg was seriously injured.
This vigorous yet stoic survivor of the horrific port explosion, which dramatically devasted the city of Beirut, emotionally reveals the story of his shock and loss on all levels emotional, physical, and moral.
Despite all the dark days of war, I was a resilient fighter who experienced plenty of sufferings, yet nothing beats what happened on this day. My leg: I knew that is unfixable, the damage is irreversible. The Pain! I’ve never felt something like that before.”
Joseph hides a soulful glance, tries to appear as an unbreakable person, loses his words to the bitterness of this life experience.
“I was considered the indestructible and the iron hearted man. I come from a lower middle-class family in Achrafieh district, I was born and raised here. I fought pridefully and dedicated the younger years of my life to this country, to protect my parents and my family from armed conflicts.”
Murmurs Joseph before he tells the story of the blast.
“That moment I saw death before my eyes... I felt disconnected to my body.”
By a stroke of fate, Joseph’s neighbour, who miraculously survived with no injuries, rushed to take him to the nearest hospital. There, the doctors amputated his leg. The damage caused to his limb was severe and life-threatening.
After two weeks of consecutive surgeries and intensive treatment, Joseph left the hospital a disabled man. He tolerates the pain because he has no other choice.
“The pain was unbearable but the real crucial and invisible destruction that really burns lays inside the scars of our hearts. I am still an angry man who deserves to live in better circumstances but never had the opportunity to.”
Several NGOs helped Joseph get readjusted to his new life and granted him a prosthetic that he wears in a gradual attempt to get back on his feet. “I won't paint the whole picture of total despair, I am grateful that God kept me alive and protected me, and today surviving has become vital”.
Joseph Ghafari, the inspirational survivor, not only used his savings to cover his health care fees; but also found a way to go back to work, to drive with his left leg and refuses to give up his pre-blast daily routine and walks.
This unpredictable battle for Joseph persists every day. The blast was not just challenging for him, but for his family as well, since 5 out of his 7 relatives ended up with painful injuries from that day. On the other hand, his wife, as well as Marie Claude, his 26-year-old daughter, a psychologist, are now searching for jobs so they can all support each other.
The family lives in a tiny old apartment; its walls, tiles and furniture were damaged by the impact of the explosion. His salary is barely enough to afford the rent, let alone his new unexpected medical fees and the inflated prices of commodities in Lebanon.
“Caritas Lebanon was the only organization that offered me assistance financially within two months of the explosion.” Joseph states gratefully. First, he was supported with $800 for home repairs in October and a monthly allowance of 800,000 LBP for three consecutive months to cover basic needs such as rent, medication and food.
Thanks to its emergency response project “Building Back Beirut – 3BC”, Caritas Lebanon supported so far more than 1000 families in Rmeil, Achrafieh, and Burj Hammoud. The project is generously funded by Caritas Switzerland, Caritas Czech Republic, Caritas Germany, Caritas Poland, Caritas Luxembourg and Cordaid.
Whilst the project contributed to the protection of affected communities against the negative impacts of the explosion, the economic crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic; it is important to remember that Joseph’s story is that of only one individual out of the hundreds of thousands that are mourning their losses today.
More than 250,000 were displaced. More than 200 deaths, 17,500 injured, and around $15 billion in property damage. The needs of the people remain high, and support to vulnerable communities in Lebanon remains as essential as ever. Nevertheless, and despite the staggering amount of people left vulnerable by these crises, Caritas Lebanon insists on always standing by the Lebanese people, which would not be possible without the support of our loyal and generous partners.