Sonia Hadchity said she was about 20 miles south of Beirut when she heard the explosion and saw the billow of smoke on Tuesday.
“I was at the beach with my family when we heard the very big explosion,” said Hadchity, a Lebanese filmmaker. “It was so loud, we thought it was close to us. So we looked and we saw the big mushroom-like cloud and we knew it was something in Beirut.”
Speaking after attending the funeral of a friend’s sister who died from the explosion, she said that many are angry with the government for letting this happen.
The cause of the blast is still under investigation. But it is believed that a fire touched a large stockpile of highly explosive ammonium nitrate that authorities left sitting in a warehouse for years, despite repeated warnings.
“Her house was close to the explosion site and something hit her head inside her house," she said, referring to her friend's sister. "The problem is what we feel like now in Lebanon is we’re not even safe in our own houses.”
In recent years, Hadchity has made Rochester a home, but said that she feels more at peace to be in Lebanon at this moment, so she can join efforts to help others amid colossal damage.
“A lot of people are now sleeping on the street because their houses were destroyed, and a lot of other people are offering rooms in their houses for the people who are on the street,” she said. “So, we’re trying to do our best.”
According to Beirut’s governor, about 300,000 people are now homeless.
While the people of Lebanon are being celebrated for their resiliency, Hadchity said that it's time for a change of government so that they don’t have to be.
“We really need change. We don't want to go through this anymore and we don’t want our kids to go through what we've been through, and what our parents have been through, and what our grandparents have been through,” she said. “We just need this to end.”