THE TRAGEDIES WE MISS UNDERNEATH THE BIG STORY

Belfast Telegraph Online
October 30, 2012 Tuesday 8:00 AM GMT
Ireland

They found part of a hand in Rue Ibrahim el-Mounzer, along with some
intestines - no one doubted ownership of the thumb that was discovered,
still pressing the button of a mobile phone.

But the little people of Lebanon remained forgotten, the bereaved
and the wounded, all 38 of them, largely not photographed

Gun battles enshrined the streets of central Beirut after the nation
buried Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan. But the bravest man in
Lebanon stood in a church in the tired suburb of Bourj Hammoud: a young
Armenian whose equally young wife was slaughtered in the same attack.

I suppose we scribes always go for the Big Story - the Lebanese
intelligence boss blown to bits in the Syria-style bomb assassination.

The cliches are essential, as is the assumption that Syria's war is
'slipping across the border'. But the tragedy of Georgette Sarkissian
should be told.

Joseph Sarkissian's family came from Palestine and his grandparents
were thrown out of Armenia during the 1915 Turkish genocide. He stood
next to his 21-year-old daughter Therese, who was with her mother,
Georgette, when she was killed.

In Lebanon, the big men get the imperial funerals, the little women
are left to be buried. But the biggest man in Lebanon was Joseph
Sarkissian, an insurance official, short dark hair, spectacles,
no tears in his eyes.

"I can't tell you ... She is half my life. My daughter picked her up
from the ground - she carried her in her arms because there were no
ambulances and drove her to the hospital in her own car.

"From the first, my wife was in a coma, thanks to God, because her
head was opened from behind by the explosion.

Part of her brain was missing. She is a treasure to me. You can't
imagine ... There were so many flowers for her and for me - because
everyone loves her."

Then there was the local bank manager in Rue Mohamed el-Mounzer who
said Lebanon had endured "40 years of crucifixion" and that during
the country's 1975-1990 civil war, "not a pane of glass had been
broken in the street".

At the end of the road, I came across Lebanese ceramist Nathalie
Khayat, bandages still covering the wounds to her back, who had been
talking to her sons Noa and Teo when the bomb shredded Georgette's
life and almost killed her. "The first thing I thought of was the
civil war," she said. "I was looking at my son's homework. He is nine
today. And I was nine when the civil war started in 1975."

The radios were talking of a gun and grenade battle between supporters
of the 14 March alliance, the official opposition to the pro-Syrian
government, and the Lebanese army which had come under fire during
the night.

Abed, my driver, and I drove as we have so often these past decades
to park near the museum, and I ran down the side street and stood
next to the soldiers.

And here comes your reporter, clumping into his own story again. On
this very spot, beside this very road, next to this very wall, I took
cover from bullets 36 years ago.