One year ago: Birth and death at Beirut blast hospital

Emmanuelle Khnaisser was in labor for the entire day. Now it was in its final stages. Crowning was the moment for her baby, her first.

One year ago: Birth and death at Beirut blast hospital

Jessica Bezdjian, five floors below, was just entering Beirut's St. George Hospital through the entrance. She arrived an hour early to her 12-hour shift in the psychiatric unit as a nurse.

Everything went off the rails.

Windows burst in an instant in every room of every floor. Windows burst, doors fell off their hinges, ceilings collapsed and equipment was thrown to the ground. The wards and hallways were flooded with dust and pulverized glasses. The chaos and darkness brought out the screams from the nurses, doctors, and patients who were bleeding.

St. George, one of Lebanon's oldest and most respected medical centers, stands just 900m (yards) away from Beirut's port. One year ago, hundreds upon tons of ammonium-nitrate improperly stored in a port warehouse burst in one of the most destructive non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.

At 6:07 p.m. on Aug. 4, 2020, the blast ripped through the capital of Lebanon, killing at least 21 people and destroying entire neighbourhoods.

One year later, each moment of that day is still ingrained in the memories of all those who were there. Many people still struggle with psychological and physical trauma. Many people still struggle with the loss of a loved person. Others try to understand what it means to be able to survive.

Edmond Khnaisser was Emmanuelle's husband.

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Emmanuelle's water broke at 5:45 in the morning. Two weeks earlier, she was about to go into labor. Edmond and she rushed to the hospital, and they were admitted to a 5th-floor room.

Emmanuelle, a 29 year-old lawyer, was quickly joined by her siblings and parents, as well her husband's mother, and sister.

They waited together for George, the baby they knew they would call him, to arrive.

Chouchan Yeghiyan, a northern suburbian of Beirut, woke her youngest daughter Jessica at 4 p.m. in order to get dressed. Jessica slept most of the day because she worked overnight shifts at St. George. The 22-year old loved her job and saved money for a master's.

She was treated to a meal and a shower. Jessica went downstairs to get the car after Rosaline, her older sister, returned home at 5:30 p.m.

As she drove away, she waved goodbye her father George Bezdjian.

Her mother, shedding tears, said that she wished she hadn't woken her up that morning.

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