Smoke filled the air, causing the sky to turn orange as the celebrations continued. At first, partygoers thought it was just a beautiful sunset. But as the night continued, it became clear it was much worse.
“Half of us knew what was happening and were inside watching the news,” Smaili said. “The other half was outside, busy with dancing, singing, what not. But it was kind of like faces were getting tense. And then, of course, eventually everyone knew what had happened.“
A pair of explosions decimated a huge section of the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, leaving at least 100 dead and thousands more wounded.
Smaili said the port where the explosion happened is mainly industrial but there are a number of homes there. Her cousin’s home was damaged with glass blown in from all the windows, terrifying his wife and children who didn’t attend the wedding.
Smaili grew up splitting her time between Canada and Lebanon. She spent several years in Edmonton during high school and her first year of university at the University of Alberta. After getting married, she and her husband moved back to Lebanon where they’ve lived for about 12 years.
“We’re hoping that this is the last crisis of the year,” she said. “It’s definitely been a big eye-opener for all of us, you know how fragile life can be. Things can change so suddenly, so unexpectedly.
“It’s definitely been an experience, 2020.”
Beirut — a city on the verge of a political and economic collapse — is now under a two-week state of emergency.
Smaili and her family live in Beqaa, in the Beqaa Valley near the Syrian border, but she drives into Beirut every two weeks for medical appointments. Her route takes her right past the port that was decimated.
“It feels like it’s not actually real,” she said. “They’re usually evening appointments, so it’s usually lit up and absolutely beautiful at night.
“I actually, literally look forward to the moment we drive around that port. To see it like that, it just doesn’t feel like it. It just doesn’t feel right. It’s like a bad dream.”
Smaili isn’t sure whether she’ll be making the trip to Beirut for her next appointment in about a week but has faith her country will rebound from this like it has so many other recent tragedies and struggles.
“It’s kind of come to the point where we don’t really have anyone but each other right now… It’s definitely created a strong sense of community.”
– With files from Rachel D’Amore, Global News