HARET HREIK, Lebanon: Signs of mourning still fill the threadbare home of Omar Shahine in the southern suburbs, a few hundred meters from the site of the deadly car bomb that claimed the life of his 10-year-old daughter, and nearly his own.
Black plastic chairs for mourners sit in piles below a solitary framed photo of Samah, who was killed along with 29 others while shopping for groceries with her father and elder sister in an explosion that rocked the southern suburbs Thursday.
“I pray to God that they get a taste of what they subjected me to,” said Itimad Hamam, Samah’s mother. “May they taste this pain, those tyrants.”Shahine and his family fled Homs in Syria two years ago, after gunmen threatened him when he refused to let his home be used as a weapons store.The day of the attack, Shahine received $200 from a cousin in Denmark, who was aware that he was unemployed in Lebanon. The family was fasting and he decided to take two of his daughters to the local supermarket for treats.
As they arrived to a nearby mobile phone shop and opened its door, the bomb exploded.
“It felt like a shock, like an electric shock,” he said. “I can’t describe it.”
But Shahine’s account of the aftermath of the attack is lucid, punctuated with pauses as the words catch in his throat whenever he recalls his helplessness and inability to save his daughter.
He said he was thrown to the ground by the bomb. As a car nearby began burning, he got up and flung himself into the mobile shop.
“That’s the moment when I thought of my children,” he said, biting his lip to beat back tears.
“I saw fire, and you couldn’t see anything else. It was all destruction.”
Looking back, he saw his daughters on the ground. He crawled and pulled the elder one, 23, into the shop. The younger, Samah, was unconscious. As smoke billowed into the store and started suffocating the occupants, he began performing CPR on his daughters.
Firemen and medical staff soon arrived at the scene and took the family, along with other wounded civilians, to Sahel Hospital.
Amid the confusion, he realized his clothes had partially disappeared from the blast. Blood poured from shrapnel wounds on his arms and legs. His body still bears the scars of the violence, and his ears are partially burned, with deteriorated hearing.
“I looked frightening,” he said.
Shahine’s eldest daughter was transferred to Geitawi Hospital to be treated for burns. Samah was moved to the Intensive Care Unit.
Back home, Hamam had rushed to the street after hearing the bomb go off, returning without finding her family, until her son, one of three surviving siblings who was not at the scene of the bombing, came back at 10 p.m. with news that the family was in the hospital. Shortly afterward, Shahine returned home, and was peppered with questions about the daughters.
“You know the heart of a mother,” Itimad said.
Shahine spent a sleepless night at home, worried about his younger daughter. He described her fondly, recalling her gentleness and beauty, partially breaking down.
He left at dawn to go to the hospital, where the doctors evaded his queries about his daughter. That was when he suspected that she had succumbed to her wounds. He approached the doctor.
“I asked him, ‘She died?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘yes,’” he said.
Shahine went to the hospital morgue.
“I said I wouldn’t say a single word. I told them I would look at her, confirm that it’s her, and then leave,” he said. “I uncovered her face, saw her, and left.”
The family held a funeral for Samah on the same day, and her father said that he managed to remain calm until he got back home.
“When we came back from the graveyard, I was finished,” he said.
Only then does Shahine and Hamam’s anger at the perpetrators of the attack emerge incandescent.
“May God never forgive them. May God get me justice from them,” he said. “They are infidels, whoever did this.”
Shahine said he knew several Sunnis who were victims of the attack, and said it was Shiites who carried his daughter’s casket to her burial place, condemning sectarianism as a recent phenomenon that went against centuries of coexistence:
“I, Omar Shahine, a Sunni from Homs, I dedicate my daughter’s martyrdom to Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, the resistance and to every honorable human being in the Arab world.”
But beyond the cries of anguish, Shahine and Hamam’s grief takes on a more tender tone.
“This girl is a martyr. Second, she was fasting. Third, she was innocent,” said Shahine. “So she is going to heaven.”
Her mother recalls her stellar school performance in Homs, and her excitement at going to music and theater classes offered by a local NGO.
They take comfort in religious intonations thanking God and declaring acceptance of fate.
“What is the sin of these people?” asked Shahine. “This is all terrorism.”