Dr. Maha Habre, Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing

That night was all too real.


I had just arrived in Matn from work and was in the entrance to our building when I felt what seemed like an earthquake, followed by two big booms. My first reaction when I got home was to pick up my one-year-old, and calm him down, while my husband and I tried to figure out what had happened. To do so, I had to use my phone, keeping it on silent so as not to disrupt my son’s sleep-time schedule at 6:30 p.m.

As my husband started calling up his friends in Beirut, he found out that some were stuck, and others wounded. I took over the phone to instruct them on first aid, how to press on their wounds and to urge them to get to the nearest hospital. We took shifts with our son. 

Realizing the scale of the explosion and casualties, I made up my mind to go down to the hospital.

When I got there and saw the crowds of people on the street leading to the entrance, the parking gate smashed, blood all over the floor, and shattered glass everywhere – nothing seemed to be where it was just hours ago. Even for me, a certified emergency nurse, trained for trauma cases, who had taught students how to handle disasters through simulation, that night was all too real.

In the ER, I was struck by the magnitude of the explosion. I attended to patients at random, providing wound care, tetanus shots and helping out confused people who weren’t even aware of what kind of care they needed. It was a mix of anything and everything I could do to help.

As the situation grew calmer in the ER, I went to check on the other units. Passing by the cafeteria area, I noticed a disoriented young man with a bruise on his forehead and an abnormally shaped head. When I asked him how I could help, he said that he was looking for the ER. He produced a piece of paper, not a formal medical file, just a random, ripped piece of paper on which the result of his CT scan of the brain showed major skull fractures. With no wheelchairs around, I walked him to the ER, supporting him as best as I could so he doesn’t collapse.

It turned out he had walked from another hospital in Achrafieh – which had been demolished – where he worked as a nurse. He needed intensive care, but as the ICU was already full, we admitted him to a regular floor and placed him under close supervision.

I also can’t forget the sight of another man who was cradling a heavily wounded young girl, probably his daughter. He had her eyes covered with his hands, so she wouldn’t see the other wounded people around.