A roadside bomb targeted a US embassy motorcade this afternoon as it passed through Dora, along the coast to the north of Beirut. We were up on the roof in my pied-a-terre in Rmeil, when we heard a massive explosion; I jumped up from my seat and looked out the balcony window. A vertical gray smoke cloud shot into the sky near "Normandy"-- a picturesque grassy landfill of garbage, just off the curving coastline. "Its in Dora," S. observed. "Probably a gas explosion of some sort. An accident." T. had just come over for coffee. "Well we can still have coffee, " I suggested, opening my laptop to inform anyone online of the explosion.
We all tried to make phone calls but the lines were already overloaded. The power had been out for two hours that afternoon; when electricity is rationed, it usually turns on after three hours in our neighborhood. "Hey look, the electricity went back on just seconds after the explosion," Danielle noted. "It's our consolation prize."
For the next half hour, I re-loaded the news websites to look for updates and chatted online. Sirens wailed as ambulances raced to the scene. First, they reported that 10 were wounded; the source of the explosion yet unknown. Then three dead. Then four. I told my friend Danielle, who is visiting from New York, "Usually when they bomb during the day it means somebody has been targeted. The symbolic bombing that is just meant to scare people usually happens after nightfall." She looked at me as if I was trying to convince her of something utterly unscientific.
A few minutes later then, the news broke that one of the targeted cars had US embassy license plates, that in fact outgoing US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman had been on his way to a farewell party at the Phoenicia hotel. Then they said, two Americans were wounded. Then the State Department denied any Americans were wounded. J. claimed an American guy called "Matthew Clayton"-- an Evangelical preacher, apparently-- was wounded and brought to Geitawe hospital. D. -- who lives in Washington D.C-- kept us informed of live news coverage on Al Jazeera, because we don't have a TV. No Americans were wounded, he said, but a "Lebanese personality" from March 14 was riding in one of the Embassy cars. Apparently the car that was hit was a decoy for the Ambassador. And so on and so forth.
Two and a half hours later, I'm getting hungry. Feltman's farewell bash at the Phoenicia hotel was canceled. I told J., "Just yesterday I said something was going to happen this week." He replied,"Oh really?!? Well if this were Sweden, I'd be impressed."