BEIRUT: One day after his frenzied funeral, black-clad peers, parents and alumni somberly convened at Hariri High School II in Beirut to honor the memory of Mohammad Shaar, the teenager killed in the Starco bombing last Friday.
In the school auditorium, many of the private school students cried openly, unaccustomed to this type of violence so close to home. Some fidgeted with the white flowers organizers asked them to bring. A handful of students wore hastily printed T-shirts bearing Shaar’s smiling likeness.
Eulogists’ voices cracked, both from emotion and the pangs of impending adulthood. Some, injured alongside Shaar in the explosion, bore recently wrapped wound dressings.
Rabih Youssef, a friend who was with Shaar at Starco, shared painful details with the audience.
“I had agreed with Hammoudi [Shaar] a day before to have a ‘walk and talk’ over Nescafe,” Youssef said, half-wailing. “On Friday, we were heading to the car when he asked to take his photograph near the fountain. I was holding the phone to take the photo and then there was fire everywhere and we were on the ground ... I realized only later that in asking me to take his photo, he was also saying goodbye.”
The photo of Shaar and his friends posing near a gold Honda, which later authorities determined to be the source of the explosion, has been heavily circulated across social media.
Others, however, shared happier memories of the friend they called “Shaaroo” at the service.
“I miss going on walks with him during ninth grade, I miss that all the time. I really miss going out every morning to get croissants and milkshakes with him,” close friend Hadi Kibbi said.
“We were inseparable. He was more than a brother to me. I spent more time with him than I would spend at home,” Kibbi recalled before the bereaved audience.
Through the tragedy, however, the school community has come together. “Because of him I feel the appreciation and the company and the love of everyone around me. ... I know now that we’re all surrounded by true friends who will stay together in times of need,” Kibbi said, his voice quivering with emotion. “He started something in us that we’ve never even felt before.”
Indeed, as the Hariri High School community filed out of the service into the rainy street, they were met by groups of concerned young people, some of who had never met Shaar.
In procession, the several-hundred strong group chanted Shaar’s name as they marched from the Batrakieh campus to the site of the explosion downtown, where Beirut Gov. Nassif Qalosh announced that a memorial statue would be built to honor Shaar.
Unlike Shaar’s funeral, which was interrupted by scores of sloganeering opponents of Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, Monday’s march had no political bent. Rather, many youths expressed disgust with the entire political establishment, which they faulted for Shaar’s death.
“We don’t want politics to interfere with our lives and kill our children,” said Ola Kibbi, a recent Hariri High School alum. “It’s like, stop it. We don’t want killing,” she said. Asked what she would like to say to Lebanese politicians, she did not hesitate before answering, “Shame on you.”
“This is what’s killing us: politics,” concurred Gabriel, who waved a Lebanese flag. “I believe this is what’s robbing us of our money [and] separating us,” he said.
As the procession reached the police blocks cordoning off the explosion site, supporters passed white flowers to Shaar’s closest friends who were allowed past the barricades to place the bouquets where he fell.
While certainly poignant, the scene was not enough to quell the fears of some attendees. “We’re still young and we want to live,” said Raneen, a young teenager. Asked if she would move out of Lebanon if she had the opportunity, she gave a sad smile: “Of course.”