In the wake of the horrific loss of life and destruction caused by the explosion of over 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, an iconic image has emerged:
The picture was taken by photojournalist Bilal Jawich, who told CNN that he followed his instincts to an Ashrafieh district hospital. What he found were streets filled with rubble, smoke in the air, and dazed and injured people filling the streets and hospitals. So far, over 137 people have died and 5,000 people have been injured, according to the outlet.
Among that level of loss of life and destruction, what makes this image all the more incredible is that the nurse in the picture told Jawich that she had actually been knocked unconscious before it was taken. The nurse was working in the maternity ward of the hospital when the blast hit and when she came to, her first thought was not for herself or her own safety, but to protect the lives of the youngest patients in her care.
According to Jawich, she related that she found herself carrying all three of the babies around to keep them safe as she figured out the next steps. Now, think about that for a moment–here is a nurse, knocked unconscious, and when she comes to, having no idea what caused the blast or if another may be headed her way or if she is risking her own life, chooses to stay. With no way of knowing if she could be hit with another explosion at any minute, she decided to carry around all three babies and still perform her duties as a nurse. If that’s not a hero, I don’t know what is.
A Hero Among the Ashes
Jawich told CNN that he was “amazed” when he saw the nurse holding on to the newborns and going about, still trying to help. There were literally deceased and injured people laying on the floor, but that didn’t stop her.
“I noticed the nurse’s calm, which contrasted the surrounding atmosphere just one meter away,” he explained. “However, the nurse looked like she possessed a hidden force that gave her self-control and the ability to save those children. People stand out amidst these violent and dark and evil circumstances and this nurse was up to the task,” he added.
The hospital that the nurse was working at–Al Roum hospital–suffered extensive damage and saw a devastating loss of life. According to the report that George Saad, the disaster manager for the hospital, gave CNN, a total of 12 patients, two visitors, and four nurses died in the explosion. And the hospital itself was practically destroyed, with 80% of the structure damaged and over half of its equipment wiped out.
On an Instagram post, Maria Hajjar, who says she is a nurse in nearby Saint George Hospital in Lebanon, located only a mile away from the explosion that was quickly flooded with patients, described the devastation of the area and the tragedy of losing coworkers. After initially treating patients with basic care, Saint George Hospital was evacuated due to the extent of the damage it suffered.
“I am a registered nurse in Saint George Hospital Lebanon, and I can’t tell you the big devastating tragedy we are in,” Hajar wrote. “My colleagues are superhero nurses who passed away yesterday. They were my family and they are now our heroes and angels. Thank God I survived, but we are really devastated. Nurses, patients, visitors, many people died….”
On Facebook, the Nurses Order of Lebanon posted a memorial to five nurses–Lena Abu Hamdan, Jesse Qahuji David, Jessica Bazdjian, Mirai Germanos and Jacqueline Gibrin– that lost their lives in the explosion, calling them martyrs:
“It’s a blood tax paid by the nursing profession again and offers the best of its young men and women redemption for human, society and health. It’s the fate of nurses and nurses who have never given up on answering a call to help and ambulance the injured, wounded, caring for the sick and needy at all costs of sacrifice. It is the struggle of heroes who once again proved to be a safety valve and the first line of defense for people in all crises and disasters and whenever a martyr falls, his colleagues pledge to continue the march.
The Union, appreciating all the great efforts made in the past few hours, extends its deepest condolences to the martyrs and wishes the wounded a speedy recovery and pledges to all colleagues that blood and race will not go waste…The night must clear. May God have mercy on the heroes martyrs.”
*Originally posted at https://nurse.org/articles/nurse-saves-babies-in-beirut-explosion/