Two years ago, I spent the summer in Lebanon with my family and friends. I could’nt have asked for a more beautiful vacation until I heard the news of a war breaking out between Lebanon and Israel. Homes were destroyed, everything that this country was slaving to rebuild turned to rubble once again. The plan for my summer was that my mother, brother and I leave the day school ended. My mother left us alone with our family after two weeks and we waited until my father would come to take us back home with him. The day my father came, the airport in Lebanon was bombed just a few hours after my father’s plane landed. For two weeks, our minds were on the brink of insanity. The government told the Americans vacationing there to return to the States immediately. The country was pretty much on a red alert. Every night, I would hear the Israeli planes flying above us, circling the perimeter and waiting for the perfect chance to bomb the terrorist group Hezoballah. News and cell phone towers were bombed, making it harder for the villages in the North to know what was happening to their crumbling country. Hundreds of innocent people were murdered from both sides. All of this chaos was happening just two hours away from my village.
Several people escaped through Syria by crossing the border and flying back to their homes. Others were left no option but to evacuate Lebanon through the U.S Marines who came to help us. After two weeks, my family packed up whatever belongings we had and stuffed them into just two suitcases (the Marines let us bring only two per family). My father, brother and I woke up at about 3:00 am and headed to the ports to sail to Cyprus. I remember how so many desperate and scared Americans lined up and waited to be taken away from the frightful war. We all stood until 12 pm waiting in the scorching heat to pass through inspections until the American troops aided us to the massive Navy ship; The U.S.S. Trent. There were hundreds of more people still waiting outside to pass through and the process took until about 6:00 pm. The U.S Marines helped carry our heavy luggage to the ship. They were so kind and caring to us. We set sail with about 2 thousand people aboard at about 7:00 pm. After twenty six hours aboard that ship (others were on board longer), it turned out that we sailed to Turkey instead.
The Turks warmly welcomed us with food, flowers, snacks, and water. They drove us to an American base about an hour away from the port where we had to stay for two days. Some stayed for less, others stayed for more, but my family was most fortunate to be able to leave early. The accomidations in the base were truly amazing. They offered us comfortable beds, free internet and telephone, warm and delicious meals, and entertainment. Our the expenses to fly back to Philadelphia were taken care of. The only thing that we had to pay for was our ticket to get back home to Miami. What more can one ask for?
This experience opened my eyes to how brave and caring our U.S Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy are. Without their help or words of comfort, every American Lebanese would have been stuck in Lebanon until the airport re-opended (which took 2 months). I was also able to experience the true value of the word and concept of FAMILY. My family stayed strong together until the very end of that nightmare. That experience brought us closer. That is one vacation I will never forget.
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