Lebanese-Montrealers who watched in horror as an explosion tore through Beirut turned their attention to helping their homeland on Wednesday as they gathered in Montreal to mourn the lives lost in the tragedy.
Several hundred people attended the vigil in Dorchester square on Wednesday evening and held each other and cried while lighting candles to honour the victims of Tuesday’s deadly blast.
In Montreal’s tight-knit Lebanese community, almost everyone knows someone overseas who has been injured or killed in the tragedy, according to Lamia Charlebois, who runs a Facebook page for the community.
Long-time Montreal resident Nizar Najarian was among the at least 135 who were killed, a city councillor confirmed, and the Canadian Armed Forces said one of its members was among the thousands who were injured.
The blast flattened Beirut’s busy port area, sending glass flying and collapsing walls, floors and balconies for kilometres, killing at least 135 people and wounding about 5,000, according to Lebanese officials.
“We all have someone who is wounded, who is still not found, who is dead,” said Charlebois, who had a friend who was killed and another who lost an eye in the blast.
“The community is extremely sad. There’s anguish and despair,” she said. “But at the same time we’re mobilized, and we want to help every way we can.”
She said many in the Lebanese community have been donating to the Lebanese Red Cross, which is forced to handle the tragedy amid a COVID-19 crisis that has already left emergency rooms overcrowded. The Canadian Red Cross has also announced a support fund to help the country.
Montreal lowered its flag to half-mast, while the city’s Lebanese consulate announced a another candlelit vigil for Thursday night.
–With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and Alessia Maratta