Coming from a Southern family, Mohamed Kamel Al-Rayess was born in Beirut. After he graduated from school, he specialized in car mechanics and worked with a large portfolio of clients in a record-breaking period, but everything changed after August 4, 2020.
On the fateful day that witnessed the tragic destruction of a whole city, Mohamed was with both his parents at the Jeitawi Hospital for his father’s routine testing. Kamel did not suffer from any symptoms, but ever since he turned 40, he would never miss his blood work.
Suddenly, and without prior notice, the floor trembled beneath them, destroying everything around them. The ceiling collapsed and windows glass shattered everywhere. Mohamed hit the wall and fell back down on his face. Despite the force of the hit, he did not lose consciousness, he stood up feeling dizzy and told his mother who sustained multiple injuries and fractures: “what a nightmare”, before falling back to the ground. He looked around him and couldn’t find his father until he discovered he was under the rubble. Mohamed felt a pain in his eye and touched it, it was bleeding. At that moment a nurse came into the room to assist him before she helped him outside the hospital. A female volunteer was there to help, and she took Mohamed in her car to drop him at the nearest hospital.
For four long hours, the young woman went from one hospital to another, and none could take him in as the number of injured people was overwhelming. They finally arrived at Al Rasoul Al Azam hospital where he found a vacant chair he could sit in in the emergency room. He spent the next seven hours in unbearable pain before they admitted him to the operating room. After the operation, reality hit hard, he lost vision in his right eye, which was completely removed to avoid further life-threatening complications. His lungs were stabbed with shards of glass, causing him breathing difficulties in his sleep.
Mohamed’s life has completely changed; he can’t carry on with his career anymore no matter how hard he tries, instead he became a private tutor for primary school students.
Before August 4, 2020, Mohamed was very active; he would go on a stroll or a swim with his father after work. Today, everything is different, and he can still hear his dad telling him: “why are you so confused? you shouldn’t be put down by challenges and difficulties, go back to your inner strength, to your patience, and live a positive life.”
Three years later, Mohamed El-Rayess is trying to move on. He doesn’t want to reopen his wounds, his grief is too deep, and not just for losing his father when he deserved to live, nor for what happened to him, but for a country that adapts despite the absurdity of everything that happens.