Beirut Tragedy Keenly Felt by Local Expats

Photo courtesy city of Glendale
City Hall was emblazoned with the colors of the Lebanese flag last week, in tribute to the connections many Glendale residents have to Lebanon.

Mike and Rosalie Tcholakian were enjoying morning coffee on Aug. 4, but the notifications that kept their phones buzzing soon halted the couple’s daily routine.
Checking the devices’ screens, they saw the shaky cellphone footage of smoke rising from a warehouse near the port of a faraway metropolis — the images at first speckled by what looked like fireworks — and then a sudden, overwhelming blast whose soundwave was captured only as distortion. The scene was so jarring that it captured the attention of a world that had spent most of the year singularly captivated by a pandemic.
However, the Tcholakians did not have the privilege of simply waiting for news to trickle out. For hours, Mike Tcholakian fruitlessly used WhatsApp — a signature mobile app for any expatriate — to try to rouse anyone from his childhood home of Beirut. An uncle eventually accepted one of his calls, though he was unable to speak.
“At least he finally picked up,” Rosalie Tcholakian said, as if reliving the release of tension from that moment.

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