This afternoon a huge bomb blast ripped through a residential street in the predominantly Christian area of Achrafieh in eastern Beirut. I was sitting in my Beirut office, not 1km away, writing an exciting article about how video streaming can boost the work of NGOs, when everything shook.
A colleague immediately knew something was up. Having been just blocks away from the Twin Towers when the airplanes hit, she knew, as we were telling her it was nothing, this wasn't normal. And she was right. These weren't the usual noises we hear of fireworks that get everyone bobbing their heads around in wonder, within 10 minutes the reports were coming through over Twitter that there had been an explosion.
What followed was typical and took me straight back to being in London on the morning of 7th July 2005. Everyone was trying to get hold of some loved one to make sure they were OK and yet there was not an iota of panic. However, my Lebanese colleagues seemed to be reacting as if they'd heard a new sharwarma place was opening - so this is how it goes, I thought - cool. There was someone I was trying to get hold of, though, with zero results.
Phone lines were becoming jammed and WhatsApp seemed to be failing. Just 15 minutes before the incident I had sent one of our photographers to take pictures of socks at the mall, situated right by the bombsite. For the next two hours I couldn't reach him, just telling myself that he had sacked in the socks and was throwing himself into the aftermath for the news agencies he also works for. I recently found out I was right. His moped was not so lucky, it was destroyed.
Since I sat down in front of the news this evening it's transpired that the apparent target of the bombing was Wissam Al-Hassan, a top intelligence official, once bodyguard to assassinated Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. An opponent of the Syrian regime, he had also recently instigated the arrest the pro-Syrian Lebanese politician http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/08/30/235205.html on charges of involvement in a bomb plot.
'Tense' is a word I've often heard describe Lebanon but to be honest, I've probably been living in a bubble because I never felt that way. Sure, 2012 has been marred by pockets of violence in the north of the country as well as on the border with Syria and even in Beirut, at times, but when it's not happening on your front door, or should I say, right in front of your local shopping mall, you consider yourself out of the loop.
I decided in the office though, that I would combine British stiff upper lip the with Lebanese nonchalance of my colleagues - I might not be taking a taxi to the beauticians tomorrow morning but I'll certainly not miss my appointment.Suggest a correction