BEIRUT: Jennifer Chedid had just arrived home from school and she was hungry. As she asked her older sister what she could eat, a massive explosion shook their entire block and turned the glass of their fourth floor apartment into flying knives that slashed 10-year-old Jennifer from head to toe.
Their father Richard was climbing the stairs to the apartment on his way back from buying bread for the family when the car bomb struck Friday afternoon less than 20 meters away, shaking doors and shattering his home.
He grabbed his bleeding daughter from the arms of her older sister Josianne and rushed her downstairs.
“As I carried her down the stairs, she was trembling and telling me: ‘Please dad rescue me,’” the father told the Associated Press Monday.
A neighbor helped him carry Jennifer and a soldier then took the girl and whisked her to an ambulance that sped off to the hospital.
An Associated Press photo, published in newspapers around the world, showed the girl being carried out with deep head and face wounds and her sneakers soaked red with blood.
“As we were in the ambulance, she was better but losing lots of blood,” her father said.
The blast, which hit the Chedids’ narrow residential street in Beirut’s predominantly Christian neighborhood of Ashrafieh, targeted Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, a top intelligence official who was one of the opponents of Syria in Lebanon.
He was killed along with his bodyguard and a female civilian – a mother of three. It has sparked angry accusations from Syria’s opponents in Lebanon that Damascus was behind the bombings.
Jennifer was one of the dozens wounded in the blast.
She lay in a hospital Monday with more than 300 stitches in her body, 90 of them in her face and head and about 50 more on her hands. Her head was shaved and her face was swollen.
Smiling faintly with a monitor behind her showing her heart rate and blood pressure, Jennifer blew kisses to visiting reporters and called out “hi, hi.”
Antoine Younan, the doctor leading the team treating Jennifer, showed reporters Monday a picture of the girl when she arrived at the hospital.
“Her body was riddled with glass wounds,” he said. Younan said Jennifer is in stable condition. The veins of her right hands, severely damaged by the glass, are healing and she moved her fingers for the first time. She underwent operations to remove the glass, repair her veins and stitch her wounds.
Jennifer’s 17-year-old sister Josianne, sitting in the lobby of the hospital, recounted the scene in their home just after the blast struck.
Jennifer was on the floor bleeding while Josianne said she was thrown by the power of the blast and landed under a China cabinet where she suffered minor injuries. She immediately got up to help her younger sister.
“As I opened my eyes I saw that much of the apartment was turned upside down,” she told reporters. “I stood up and started shouting ‘Jenny, Jenny’ but no one answered. Then I found her next to a couch and covered with debris that fell from the ceiling,” said Josianne, who had a bandage on her left brow from a glass injury.
“I screamed for help but no one answered,” continued Josianne, wearing a cross around her neck. “I carried her and kept talking to her. I did not want her to go unconscious. She was holding me saying: ‘Help me.’”
Jennifer’s mother Nisrine was at work on the other side of the city in the commercial neighborhood of Hamra when she received a message on her phone about an explosion in her neighborhood Ashrafieh. She jumped into a taxi, but had to get out about a mile away because cars were kept away from the scene to clear the roads for ambulances.
The cellphone network was overloaded and she could not get through to her husband or children. But she did receive a call from her daughter’s school that let her know she had arrived home in her school bus.
She ran toward her apartment.
“I wanted to be with the children so that they would not be afraid,” she said.
When she arrived at her street, security forces prevented her from reaching the building because the area was cordoned off for the investigation of the car bomb.
Then she saw something that made her collapse.
“As I looked at the street, I saw Jennifer’s shoes covered with blood,” Nisrine said. “I bit my tongue and fainted.”
She was treated by a paramedic. When she asked him about her daughters, he took her to Josianne.
“When I saw the blood on Josianne’s clothes, I knew that Jennifer’s injuries were serious,” Nisrine added. She then received a call from the hospital where Jennifer was being treated and headed over.
A few hours after she arrived, Jennifer was taken out of the operating room and she saw her daughter wearing a green hospital gown.
“I looked at her. My heart broke,” the mother told journalists outside the Intensive Care Unit where Jennifer has been since Friday.
Jennifer, a top student in her 5th grade class, loves drawing and taking pictures with the cellphones of her parents and sister.
She is no fan of science or math but loves reading and sports. Her favorite cartoon is Tom and Jerry.
On Sundays, she goes with her Maronite Christian family to church for prayers.
Jennifer opened her eyes from the latest operation Monday and started communicating for the first time.
“My happiness today is beyond explanation,” said her mother Nisrine.