This morning I walked through Dahiyah on my way to work, and I saw work going on in terms of cleaning the rubble of the destroyed buildings – it was quick and organized; some areas are almost completely cleaned, while others still have people working.

Looking at the rubble, having seen the building before when it was filled with life, and seeing it now, with pieces of people’s belongings…

You know, no one took anything out, all the things are laid out as if in some exhibition stranded between the slabs of concrete resting on top of each other, or just blown up in a corona around a pile of mangled debris, steel and colorful particles once called furniture and belongings. All kind of articles, from furniture to utensils, gas stoves, personal pictures, books, students’ school books – scattered with pages turning in the wind – can be found. I stood in front of one of those buildings looking at some books and copy books half torn and covered with dust. Some handwriting was still visible, some in English, some in Arabic. It must have belonged to some elementary school student, as it was clearly a homework book. You can actually look at a portrait of peoples’ shattered lives in front of you.

Every item has a story and tells you something about the people who once lived in the building. You can know, for instance, nearly how many people lived in the apartment, if there were infants, children, youth, or just an old couple. You can approximate how long they have lived there, by examining the pieces of furniture and other items necessarily gathered over a long period of time. Sometimes, you can even tell what people’s profession was because of the tools or equipment left among the rubble – whether they were an engineer, a doctor or simply a handyman. You can tell if there were students and what level they were at in their studies, and even which school they attended. You can tell what people’s tastes were and what socio-economic status they had by the quality of the furniture, carpets, chairs, television, etc. You can even tell what people’s taste in clothing was. In some parts, you can see what people were last cooking or the food they left on a table before leaving in a hurry.

It’s as though you were taking part in some guessing game in which a silent image is played in front of you containing all the clues your mind needs to recreate the image as it looked before the destruction. It’s almost like putting together a tremendous jigsaw puzzle of rubble: you do use your actual memories of how the place used to be, but inevitably your imagination and private images of how it could be also take part in the imaginary reconstruction of the place.

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