Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Old and new memorials

Tuesday was the anniversary of the death of St. Maroun, after whom the Maronite church, the largest Christian sect in Lebanon, was founded. This was no ordinary anniversary however (at least to those of us from the New World) but the 1600th.

Schools and government offices were closed (as they had been for the 1599th), though many shops stayed open.

On the fresh and raw loss front, 23 bodies and body parts of the 90 passengers have now been recovered from the Ethiopian Air crash off Beirut on January 25th.

The first of the two “black boxes” from the crash was finally retrieved several days ago after an intense search, not far from shore and only 45 meters (147 feet) deep, despite reports last week that the “pings” had been located miles offshore and at a depth of 1300 meters (4,265 feet--not 425 as erroneously stated in last post).

The box was flown to France (in the Prime Minister’s private jet) for examination.

The “black” box turns out to be actually orange (for some reason I find this jarring, on a par with the discovery that the Sphinx has a tail--delightfully logical).

Part of the second box, the cockpit recorder, was found a day later, but missing a key piece. This only adds to the mystery, drama, circus of recovery efforts. The weather, pilot error, the Israelis and Al Qaeda have all been variously blamed. (Al Qaeda was the latest culprit, courtesy of some rabid Israeli online press).

I spoke with an Ethiopian worker here who said that their community was convinced that the plane had been bombed because a group of high ranking Hezbollah members was to have been on board, and that the truth would never come out because it would be suppressed by the government. Lebanese government? Someone’s government—does it really matter? She wept as she told me of a woman on board who had worked as a maid here for 11 years, and had not seen her family that whole time. Another domestic worker here had three children in Ethiopia.

Photo shows Lebanese army being briefed by the search team (with thanks to ACS teacher Sietske and her amazing blog--

Another dimension of the recovery efforts is that the vessels equipped to dive to the deep level that seemed to be necessary belonged to private, for-profit treasure hunters (see photo), working at the expense of the Lebanese government. It was reported that they are especially eager to help, while keeping an eye out for a 1957 plane wreck in the area , which was thought to be carrying gold bullion...