“I will remember her for life, not only because she is my granddaughter — because she was a fabulous child on all levels,” says Michel Awad, grandfather of Alexandra Naggear, who was killed in the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.
Global News has confirmed the three-year-old Canadian citizen was one of two Canadians killed by the explosion in the Middle Eastern city.
The girl’s family is speaking out in hopes that their pain and irreparable grief will serve as a teaching moment — she isn’t the first but they hope she will be the last child to die as a result of “government negligence.”
“I think she deserved to live in a better place, with better leaders,” said Awad.
“The children of Lebanon — they don’t deserve this. They have been suffering since 1975.”
On Aug. 4, the capital of Lebanon suffered a massive explosion which killed more than 175 people and injured over 6,000 near Beirut’s port.
At the time of the explosion, Alexandra’s mother Tracy Awad Naggear and father Paul Naggear were at their home in Beirut, which faces the port. Alexandra was playing when Tracy heard a whistle, similar to the whistle you hear from a missile, Awad explained.
“That’s when she yelled at her husband to run inside. She put Alexandra on the ground, holding her… but the explosion was so big they were blown away and hit a wall.”
Paul had to dig through the debris to find his wife and daughter, who were both injured.
Alexandra was rushed to the hospital with severe head injuries and died three days later.
Awad was in the hospital with his granddaughter after the tragedy and said he saw things he will never forget for as long as he lives.
“It was a nightmare. You try to convince yourself that this is not true, that you’re dreaming and then you realize that, no, this is happening.”
The Beirut explosion was by far the worst tragedy the Naggear-Awad family has ever experienced in Lebanon, Awad said. A close second was in 1989 when Awad said his apartment was hit by “seven or eight missiles.”
It was then, he said, that he moved his family to Montreal after fleeing to Cyprus to seek refuge. The Awad family lived in Montreal from 1989 to 1994, when they were forced to go back to their country of origin for personal reasons.
Alexandra’s parents were supposed to move back to Montreal in September, but the explosion struck before they had the chance to escape tragedy. The young girl already had her Canadian passport ready to go. Tracy and Paul will have to start their new life eventually in Montreal without their baby girl by their side as planned.
Now, the family is looking for real answers as to what happened.
“We cannot go through such a day again,” said Awad.
“They are definitely corrupted, they definitely have no heart, no pride,” Awad said. “I don’t know what this country means to them. (The political leaders) are war criminals.”
Awad said Alexandra will be remembered as a happy, loving child who loved music and animals. She was smarter than her age, as well, Awad added.
“Every single minute I spent with her was luxury time.”
Tracy Awad Naggear is still recovering from her own injuries, undergoing surgery a few days ago for her hand.
According to her father, they still plan on moving back to Montreal for a safer and better life.
“It’s not only moral trauma, it’s also physical injuries, we’ve had enough. Every time we think we are heading to better days, we’re hit by another tragedy.”
Lebanese-Montrealers rallied in a demonstration on Sunday, frustrated by their the country’s government.
They’re seeking justice, said Ghadi Elkoreh, member of the United Diaspora Group.
“We are sad but we are very angry and we will not let go of this anger until we see change in our country,” Elkoreh said.
News of Alexandra’s death has triggered deeply-rooted anger and sadness from protesters.
“I think seeing a three-year-old innocent girl being killed by the negligence of her own government, seeing the life of a three-year-old be stolen this early in (her lifetime) is heartbreaking and it’s a reminder of how criminal and careless the whole regime is,” said Elkoreh.
Lebanese immigrant Malek Anouti, who was also at the Montreal protest on Sunday, said it could’ve been his own children affected by the explosion, but he is thankful to have them safe and sound in Canada.
“I will do everything, everything I can for her remembrance — to work on getting things done the right way to achieve freedom,” he said.
“I really hope that the tragedy of this girl, the real tragedy, I really hope that it’s actually going to be a wakeup call. Not only actually killing one girl, there’s so many kids who have died, there are so many innocent people that have been oppressed and killed and I think that this should be a catalyst event.”
— With files from Global’s Olivia O’Malley and Kerri Breen
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