I’m not the only one who saw the first videos from Beirut Tuesday and immediately thought “nuke.” But the thought passed as quickly as the mushroom-shaped cloud itself — unlike the cloud that rose high over Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. As a war baby, I grew up with that image seared in my mind, the image of something that must never, ever happen again. So seeing that familiar shape on Tuesday, even for just a split second, took my breath away.
Reports soon explained that the explosion occurred when a fire ignited an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer ingredient. That’s what Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. I was working five miles away from that explosion, and still our concrete-and-stone building shuddered. And McVeigh used “only” 2 tons of the stuff. Just a fraction of what rocked Beirut.
Covid-19, business shutdowns, bankruptcies, job losses, school closings, social isolation, ugly politics, civil unrest and violence, wildfires, hurricanes, Beirut explosion …
And we’re only two-thirds of the way through 2020.