Monday, July 17, 2006

'Yes, we're safe now; yes, we're scared; no, we don't know what's going on'

The following letter was written by Jay Saxon '05, who was studying Arabic in Beirut this summer, to his friends and family on July 13.

Hello friends and loved ones,

I have never sent a mass email before, and I'm sorry to do it now under these circumstances. As some of you know, I'm currently in Beirut, and if you've been watching the news, things here are really, really bad. I'm writing you all because I have gotten many emails today asking if I'm ok, telling me, in various terms profane and otherwise, to get the hell out, and sending good wishes and swift prayers. It has become too much to try to reply to all of them individually, so I'm sending this email to give you the freshest update I can.

My thoughts, stream of consciousness and edited only for clarity and spelling, are attached. Let me explain. In a weird twist of fate, we're holed up in the middle of the city and can't leave, but we still have power, internet, and phone. I just sat down and started to write, to get it all off my mind and to try to make some sense of my emotions, and decided that I might as well try to tell people at home what's going on, as education and enlightenment are always better than hatred and division (Anytown people, you know what I'm talking about). Bearing that in mind (and, quite frankly, with nothing else to do but worry and wait), I edited my thoughts and I've sent them to the Birmingham News, so that hopefully they'll see light of day and the people back home can understand what it's like to be here during this. What I wrote is copied almost verbatim in the attached document, as it is too difficult to try to say it in a more personal way to all of you.

Short version: yes, we're safe now; yes, we're scared; no, we don't know what's going on; and no, we can't leave. All access points out of the country are closed.

I want people to know what's it's like for us, but more importantly for the Lebanese people; they've been living this for more than 20 years. Morever, the embassy appears to have forgotten us, and we feel abandoned. As I write this, a staffer for Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio, who has a constituent whose daughter in our program, just called that daughter. It would be nice if more public officials who matter knew what was going on here right now, and know that whatever they do on this issue up in Washington is affecting American lives, right now. If any of you want to call up our senators or congressmen and tell them they need to give a shit about what's happening here, because its affecting our lives, I and my friends here would be most appreciative.

Things could clear up tonight, or they could get worse. "They say" that tonight will be the deciding point, but I don't know if that's comforting or not. All we know is that for now, we sit and we wait.

If for some reason anyone wants to call me, my Lebanese mobile, which I have on all the time, is country code 961, followed by […] It will be on and with me as long as the phones still work.

Please pray for us, if you believe in that, and send good wishes, if you don't. I'll send you updates as they come, and should things turn out ok, I'll let you know as soon as we're all in the clear.

Thanks to all of you who have gotten in touch; I appreciate all of your friendship and support. If we're lucky, the diplomats will fix this soon (maybe even tonight), and if not, then we'll ride it out as best we can.

I didn't BCC this because I just couldn't remember everyone. Please look at the send list, and forward it to everyone who would care that I missed, as well as to anyone who might be interested in knowing what's actually going on.

Thanks for caring, and I hope to see you all again soon,


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