The City of Flames, Beyrouth

Elodie Salloum

The sun was out and about; here I was sitting in the kitchen’s balcony, enjoying the traditional sfouf my grandma had prepared; not a worry in the world. Suddenly, the world stopped. I felt like time had ceased to move forward, and I was just standing there not able to move. Beirut went quiet alongside the whole country. I looked at my hands, and I was shaking head to toe, even though I could not feel it. I weirdly went numb. The terror that was running all over my family’s faces and veins was terrifying, but my mind was in denial; I just could not process it. I rushed to the family room where the chaos was spread for the whole world to watch. My phone was in my hand as I was calling my friends, no service; I turned on my data, no service; I tried to charge my phone, no power. It started to hit me rapidly: Beirut was on fire and my loved ones were desperately trying to grab their last grasp of air to survive and make it to the hospital. I saw my mom, who is a nurse, leave everything behind and rush to help. And then here it was, “Elodie, your friend Elias lives in this city of flames, what has become of him?”

My heart stopped for a second there, and I went crazy. No service, no power, and no means of communicating. What happens now?

14 days of prayer, of hope, of tears, of desperation, of guilt, of blame, of stress did not go in vain because I know he is still here with us. Elias passed away. I begged God to take me instead and that shows a glimpse of how much he means to me. A silent, shy, polite, pure, angelic kid being taken, no actually, being snatched from life because of corruption? This is the world we live in unfortunately, and we have to adapt. What makes it more heartbreaking is that we have to adapt; the fact that this is our only solution, is inhumane. A child snatched from his mother’s arms at age 15, having to bury my friend at age 15, having to hear his mother’s cries and screams at such a young age is traumatic, having to attend school without his presence, to watch my classmate shed uncontrollable tears whenever his name is brought up is the most pain I have ever had to feel, all at such a young state of life.

Elias did not just fade away; we did everything we could and still are to make all his dreams fulfilled. He got verified on Anghami, and his song went viral; we had a mural in his honor at our school; we reached out to many in order to help his family; he will always live within each and every one of us, and I am sure you have seen that smile of his shining throughout the chaos of the country we live in. His view on life was simple, and he was a kid with dreams and a passion, and the kid who just makes you feel safe and loved when around. It is a shame to have Elias taken from us, and that being said, this goes for all the victims of this injustice, crime, and terror we were forced to live.

I lost my best friend to a corrupted political situation; what else can they want from such pure citizens?

I am glad that I have the chance to finally write and have someone read my August 4th story and profoundly understand that Elias was more of a sweet kid; he reigned over our hearts. I finally have the voice to have his story, his legacy, be passed on to, and I will put my whole willpower to make him proud.