Survivors in Lebanon: 'What am I going to do?
POSTED: 1054 GMT (1854 HKT), August 30, 2006
By Arwa Damon CNN
TYRE, Lebanon (CNN) -- In a village not far from Tyre, mine-clearing teams worked to destroy unexploded bombs, mortars and other weaponry scattered across the landscape.
"Do you think there will be another war again?" a young girl said as she ran up to me, her pink sunhat flopping in the breeze.
Her mother smiled dryly. "See what even the children are saying?" she said. "Their innocence is gone."
More than two weeks after a cease-fire in the 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the effects of the war are seen in everyone here in Lebanon, in their faces, their expressions, their voices. Even their smiles. (Watch a young boy tour his devastated home -- 2:47)
In Nabatiye, I spoke with a group of men talking about the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict just meters away from a flattened building. The men said that no matter how many civilians were killed, no matter how much was destroyed, Lebanon would rebuild.
But that optimism is not echoed across all of Lebanon, not even across all the south, as people are forced to deal with all they have lost.
Just down the street was Ahmad Failaili, a 75-year-old women's clothing shop owner and dressmaker. His hands were covered in thick dust as he cleared away bits and pieces of his shop -- his livelihood reduced to a skeleton of a store.
He explained it is the fourth time he has had to rebuild. "This is the worst," he said.
His shop was not targeted, but severely damaged by the multiple bomb strikes nearby. The clatter of machinery clearing the devastation made it hard to hear what he was saying. (Watch Lebanon try to rebuild -- 2:57)
"You know, a young woman died over there," he said. Then he paused and looked at me: "She was maybe about your age, looked like you, she was just having coffee with her friends."
Stuck in traffic with a coffin
Standing on a hilltop in Qana, we watched 65-year-old Salim Amer survey what was left of his home -- a crater.
In the rubble he found traces of the life he and his family once had there. "I built this home for my children," he said. "I don't know what I am going to do next."
Even if he rebuilds, his view is now the newly built memorial for the 29 civilians killed in Qana, wooden planks temporarily stuck into cement. If he builds a new home, his children and his descendents will look at that memorial and remember the war.
At a makeshift crossing over the Litani River, traffic was clogged because the main bridge had been bombed. A woman named Madlene cried over her grandmother's coffin inside a hearse stuck in the traffic.
She paused to talk with us for a few moments, expressing her grief, apologizing for her sorrow and inability to articulate all that she wanted to say.
"The children, don't they (the West) see the children, the families?" she said in English. "When you see what Israel has done, then you understand why Hezbollah made what it makes."
The traffic started to move, and she turned and walked behind the hearse, her shoulders hunched, up the dirt hill that is now a crude passageway across the Litani.
'Be strong for the children'
Just outside of Marjeyoun, there was a surreal sight. Bright blue and purple camping tents were pitched, the kind a child would use to play pretend camp in the backyard. Only here they stand out amid the rubble.
This is now home for the Yassin family. The tents are pitched on what is left of their front patio. Five-year-old Mehdi seemed jubilant as he took us on a tour of his former home.
"Come see my room," he said as he scampered over bits of rubble, broken glass and collapsed doorways. He found his stuffed Tweety Bird, which was almost as big as he is. It was under one of the beds among the debris of his bedroom, but he discarded Tweety almost instantly.
"Look, here and here and here," he said, pointing out all the other devastated buildings around him.
His father, Mohammad, was still in shock. "What am I going to do? How am I going to feed my family? I spent all our savings on a hotel in the mountains," he said, as he carried 2-year-old Ali on his shoulders.
His wife, Raiya, stared at her old living room as her eyes filled with tears. "We are trying to be strong for the children," she said. "But inside we are dead."