I was writing an article about Benghazi’s attempts to bounce back after the events of last year; the festivals and campaigns, the book fair and the new theater that opened. We were beginning to recuperate, gain back our reputation and really start building on our hopes for a better country.
But today that progress has been overshadowed by a horrific event. A bomb went off outside Al-Jalaa Hospital, Benghazi’s biggest trauma center, killing three people and wounding dozens more. Of course the term ‘killing’ doesn’t properly describe the way these people were ripped apart, their body parts scattered across the road. One of them was a 13-year boy who was getting bread from the store.
The destruction was extensive; cars and buildings were badly damaged. The hospital itself is already rundown, and the explosion only added to its ruin.
As always, rumors are flying around. Some blame a shady facebook page that is taking responsibility for the attack, claiming to be a ‘mujahid’ group. Others blame Gadhafi supporters, Shia elements, Syrian forces loyal to Bashar; the list goes on. A new theory has emerged that this was just an accident, a grenade that overheated in a car and exploded at the wrong time in the wrong place.
These details don’t matter right now.
Today was a tipping point for Benghazi. Bombings on a small scale have been going on for the past month at police stations. The city has been suffering from a major security vacuum. But today hit home for the citizens. Not even during the revolution was a hospital attacked. If these attacks are extending to civilian buildings, what will stop them from attacking our schools and offices?
Across several platforms, on the street and online, the question was repeated, why would someone attack a hospital?
But beyond the denial, there is a strengthened resolve. Immediately after the attack, people by the hundreds marched through the streets demanding security, justice and an end to lawlessness. One might ask, to whom they are protesting? The government doesn’t care, they gave a press conference, lasting about ten minutes, admitting they were helpless to do anything.
But there is still hope, and more than that. There is determination. We will not allow terrorists to take control of our city, or our country, if it indeed was a deliberate attack. Whatever their aim was in this attack, they have failed. We’re not afraid. On the contrary, I think they should be afraid right now.
A beautiful thing happened today. The citizens of Tripoli began massing in Algeria Square, makeshift signs in hand, standing in solidarity with Benghazi. The longer they stood, the bigger their numbers got. Chants they sang during the revolution were reiterated. “We will fight for you, Benghazi”, “We will treat your wounds”. I think that speaks volumes about who Libyans truly are at heart.
The site of blood on the street, the appearance of guns, all of this is new to us, and we reject it as emphatically as we rejected Gadhafi. Libya will not be the next Iraq, not by a long shot. We’re not done fighting yet. We will put aside our differences and our animosity during times of hardship and unite. We will continue to build, to progress, but we can no longer let our guard down.
Pray for Benghazi, but don’t cry for it, don’t pity us. If horror killed, Benghazi would have been dead ages ago. But here we are, emerged once more from chaos, determined to set things right. Pity those who think they can destroy us, because they face an impossible task.