The 29-year-old doctor says she’s still in shock and counting her blessings after escaping the terrifying ordeal unharmed in a moment that was captured on video by her wedding photographer at the time. Seblani was posing for the video when the blast hit, sending her scrambling for cover along with everyone else in the city.
“There is a lot of damage. Many people were killed and wounded,” Seblani told Reuters on Wednesday. “Myself, my husband, the photographer … I thank God for protecting us.”
The explosion killed more than 130 people and injured at least 5,000 others on Tuesday after a fire at the city’s port ignited more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical used in fertilizers.
Seblani and her new husband, Ahmad Subeih, 34, shared their first-hand account of the devastating blast on Wednesday, after the wedding video captured international attention.
“We are still in shock,” Subeih said. “I have never heard anything similar to the sound of this explosion.”
The video, which was shot by wedding photographer Mahmoud Nakib, shows Seblani smiling broadly while posing in her wedding dress in a downtown square.
Seblani says she was focused on enjoying her special moment at the time.
“I have been preparing for my big day for two weeks and I was so happy like all other girls,” she said. “I am getting married. My parents are going to be happy, seeing me in a white dress. I will be looking like a princess.”
The video shows the camera moving in close to examine Seblani’s dress. Nakib, the photographer, is focusing on Seblani’s train when he realizes something is wrong.
“Allahu Akbar,” he can be heard saying, a second before the blast wave hits. Seblani’s bouquet is blown away by the wave of force, and her dress billows out behind her while the roar of the explosion drowns out everything else.
“What happened during the explosion here, there is no words to explain,” she said. “I was shocked. I was wondering what happened? Am I going to die? How am I going to die?”
The video shows Nakib, Seblani and Subeih running for cover while glass and debris fall everywhere.
A few moments later, when the blast has stopped and the alarms have started, they can be seen grouping up and trying to get to safety.
“It went from a beautiful place to a ghost town filled with dust, shattered glass and people yelling (and) bleeding,” Seblani told CNN in a separate interview. “It was like a nightmare scene.”
“We started to walk around and it was extremely sad. It was not describable, the devastation and the sound of the explosion,” the groom, Subeih, told Reuters.
Seblani, who works as a doctor in the United States, says she helped tend to the wounded after the explosion. Eventually, she and her husband tried to carry on with their wedding festivities, though she admits her heart wasn’t in it.
‘My husband told me to continue, we can’t stop,” Seblani said. “I was like OK, why not. We continue.
“I was not living the moment, actually. I was walking, my face was smiling, my lips were smiling, that’s it. Not more.”
Seblani had been in the city for three weeks before the wedding. She says the blast has made it impossible for them to settle in Beirut, where Subeih works as a businessman. They are now waiting for Subeih to get a visa so he can live in the U.S. with Seblani.
“I feel so sad about what happened to other people, about what happened to Lebanon,” Seblani said.
“When I woke up and saw the damage that happened to Beirut, the one thing I said was, thank God we are still alive.”
— With files from Reuters