“Oh my God!” – exclaims Sister Nicolas Akiki, the director of the hospital. This is the first time she has been into this part of the hospital since it was devastated by the explosion of 4 August in the port of Beirut. Her hand goes to her heart and she struggles to hold back the tears as she gazes in silence at the wreckage. Her face reveals the anguish she is feeling at the sight of so many years of hard work and sacrifice, destroyed in the space of seven short seconds.
On the ninth floor of the building, the convent in which nine of the sisters normally live has also been badly damaged. One wall fell in on top of one of the sisters, wounding her arm. “But no one of them died. It was a miracle because the windows were blown in, scattering broken glass everywhere, and the ceilings in some of the sisters’ rooms were also brought down. So that’s why, despite my sadness, I give thanks to God and Our Lady of the Rosary for having protected us”, Sister Nicolas explains, as she points to, and indeed almost caresses, the picture of Our Lady of the Rosary that is hanging in the hallway of the convent. Another of the sisters, Sister Arlette, relates how she had gone into the bathroom to get some medicine when she heard a voice saying “go out, go out” and that made her take a step backward, just a moment before the bathroom mirror and the whole of the bathroom ceiling came crashing down.
The hospital is situated in the Gemmayzé suburb of Beirut, less than 500 meters from the port. Before the explosion, it had 200 beds, plus some important and very modern medical facilities and operating theatres on its eighteen floors, nine of them underground and nine overground. But without doubt, the heart of the hospital, its hidden driving force, is the sisters themselves. “The hospital is not an end in itself, it is a means of helping our patients with all our energy and commitment to overcome some of the most difficult phases in their lives, times overshadowed by suffering, uncertainty, and fear”, explains Sister Nicolas, the hospital director. All of the sisters combine their professional expertise in the various different hospital departments with their vocation of pastoral care and human spiritual concern for the patients and also for the hospital staff.