Man who can't hug loved ones in Lebanon finds other way to show support

Charbel Jreij says it’s difficult to be apart from his family in Beirut as they deal with the devastating aftermath of the explosion Aug. 4 that killed at least 170 people, wounded about 6,000 and left another 300,000 or so homeless. 

Fundraiser to be held Friday at Founders' Hall

Charbel Jreij says the panic was 'indescribable' when he couldn't reach his parents over the phone after the explosion in Beirut Aug. 4. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Charbel Jreij says it's difficult to be apart from his family in Beirut as they deal with the devastating aftermath of the Aug. 4 explosion that killed at least 170 people, wounded about 6,000 and left tens of thousands homeless. 

His parents, siblings and cousins are OK, Jreij said — at least physically.

"Mentally they are very broken," he said.

"It's very hard to be that far apart and not being able to be with them and hug them and give them the support they need."

There are many other families on P.E.I. who are concerned for loved ones in Lebanon. That is why Jreij is organizing a silent auction Friday from 5-7 p.m. at Founders' Hall in Charlottetown. All funds will go to to support the relief effort in Beirut, Jreij said.

He is asking for donations for the auction, and hopes there will be a large turnout.

"This is the time where us, as Lebanese community, we're asking our Islander community, our neighbours, our friends, our business community, everybody to be around us and support us in this most difficult time."

Widespread damage in aftermath of massive Beirut explosion

1 year ago
The blast cut a huge swath of destruction stretching several kilometres away from the waterfront. 1:06

Jreij said he first heard of the explosion from a friend who called from Cyprus to see if his family was OK. That was before it was even on the news.

He immediately tried to call his parents but couldn't get through because the phone networks were down. His four children, two boys and two girls ranging in age from four to 11, could sense something was not right, he said.

"The panic was indescribable and, like, we couldn't think, we didn't know what to do…. My kids started hugging me and asking me if their grandparents were OK."

A few hours later he was able to reach his mother, who assured him they were all unhurt. But the country is in turmoil. Jreij said his brother, who felt the explosion 15 kilometres away, told him Beirut reminds him of the wars in Lebanon years ago.

"Everything is broken, everything is shattered — like the buildings are destroyed and people are on the streets. They don't know what to do. It's devastating."

More information on Friday's fundraiser, including how to donate, can be found on the Saints Peter & Paul Orthodox Church Facebook page.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.


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