BEIRUT: He sprinkled water on the garlands of white flowers that adorned the rust-colored earth now covering the remains of his son.
Fadl Hodroj rose, thronged by tearful women and men, a sad smile on his face.
“And that was Abdul-Karim Hodroj,” he said, bookending his son’s life.
Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday at the Rawdat al-Shahidain memorial near Shiyah to pay tribute to Abdul-Karim, the 21-year-old General Security sergeant who confronted a suicide bomber, was ripped apart by the explosion and thus saved his neighborhood from a bloodbath.
Abdul-Karim and his colleague, Ali Jaber, grew suspicious of a vehicle that had malfunctioned near their home. The latter rushed to inform a nearby Army checkpoint, while the former stood his ground, detaining the suicide bomber.
The detonation destroyed Abdul-Karim, but was far enough away to spare over 100 people gathered at the popular Abu Assaf cafe a mere two-dozen meters down the road.
“He sacrificed his life for ours,” said one Amal member who was at the funeral.
Hundreds of General Security officers, soldiers, policemen and Amal cadres both guarded the funeral prayers and helped bury Abdul-Karim, laboring under a scorching afternoon sun, shielded by wreaths of flowers they later laid on his grave.
Fragile pink and white petals lay trampled on the brick floor, their scent a soothing presence for the many who broke into tears. As Abdul-Karim’s father received condolences with a fragile smile, wiping the sweat off his forehead, chants praising the Prophet Mohammad, and his relatives echoed: “We heed your call, O’ Zeinab,” a reference to the Prophet’s granddaughter, revered in particular by Shiites.
Abdul-Karim’s father stood before a mural depicting the Battle of Karbala when Imam Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson, was murdered – an event commemorated every year during Ashoura. Nearby, the Lebanese flag fluttered in the light breeze alongside flags honoring Hussein, Zeinab and the Prophet’s uncle, Abbas.
“You are a great pride to me, and you raise my head high, and we are all Abdul-Karim Hodroj,” Fadl said, as he walked out of the funeral and on to his home.
Back at the Hodroj home meters away from Monday night’s bombing in Tayyouneh, Mahmoud, Abdul-Karim’s uncle, expressed pride at his nephew’s conduct.
“I want you to congratulate me, not offer condolences,” he said.
“From his youth, Abdul-Karim learned to love his country and nation, and what he learned, he carried out to the end,” he said.
Mahmoud learned of the attack when he saw his nephew’s colleague, Jaber, being rushed to the hospital. The young man told Mahmoud that he heard the bomb and did not know the whereabouts of Abdul-Karim, who went to confront the bomber.
“I knew at that moment that Abdul-Karim had been martyred,” he said.
Mahmoud takes pride in his nephew’s courage, reckoning Abdul-Karim knew he was risking his life when he approached him.
“When Abdul-Karim grew suspicious of the car, he surely thought that it might be rigged, and he must have considered that the man was a suicide bomber,” he said. “But despite that, he did not hesitate for a second to prevent this attack. He just wanted to protect the neighborhood.”
“He sacrificed himself to protect these people with his body and flesh and he succeeded.”
“We will certainly never forget him, and our pride in his sacrifice will remain with us for our lifetime,” Mahmoud added.
And of the attack, he said such bombings would have no effect.
“They are increasing our determination to fight them and confront them,” he said.
But back at the funeral, a giant poster of Abdul-Karim stood. The sergeant had a twinkle in his eye. The caption read: “Are you content, my Lord? Take until you are content.”