For Kids in Beirut, an Explosion Leaves Scars

Dana lives in Beirut, Lebanon, the scene of a deadly blast last August.  

On August 4, 2020, a massive explosion erupted at the Port of Beirut. The port, which is located in Lebanon’s capital city, is one of the busiest shipping thoroughfares in the Middle East.  

The explosion sent shock waves through downtown Beirut, causing damage even to those who weren’t near the warehouse. Glass shattered miles away from the site of the explosion.

According to investigators, a fire in a warehouse ignited explosive materials that had been stored there for more than six years. The blast killed more than 200 people and injured more than 7,500. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.

The blast is thought to have been one of the strongest non-nuclear explosions to date. It has affected daily life for countless residents, according to Nicolas Rizk, a psychologist in Beirut.

“Many families are staying in apartments that are badly damaged because they have nowhere else to go,” Rizk told me recently. ‘’Families were struggling before the explosion. They now lack the money to buy food or restore their homes. The situation has led to deep feelings of insecurity, uncertainty about tomorrow, and anxiety about how to survive.”


Dana asks classmate Mia Boukarroum, 13, about her experiences during the August 2020 blast at the Port of Beirut on the Mediterranean Sea. 


Children have also been affected by the explosion. “Parents have told us of an increase in youngsters who are struggling to sleep, suffering from nightmares and flashbacks, or are too afraid to go outside,” Rizk said. “Heightened distress and anxiety at being left alone have made many children more prone to aggressive behavior, constant crying, and attachment issues.”

I asked one of my classmates, Mia Boukarroum, 13, about her experiences during the blast. “I remember the ground shaking beneath me,” she said. “At first, I thought it was an earthquake. But a second later, I heard a loud bang with the sound of breaking glass, people screaming, and cars beeping.”

Mia’s mother was steps away from the family’s home when the blast occurred. “For some reason, I [thought] the building was collapsing,” Mia recalled. “But when I heard my mom yell my name, I sprinted towards her without thinking. Seeing your parent gives you the feeling of instant safety.”

Photos courtesy of the author