The car bomb that hit Beirut this morning, killing prominent Lebanese politician Mohamad Chatah, also interrupted a live broadcast on the Lebanese network Future TV. This scene, removed from the blast as it was, is far from the most significant experience of today's bombing. But it is still a dramatic window on what unfolded.
This was far from downtown Beirut's first brush with car bombings, something you can glimpse in the way the anchor and her guest register first as shaken by initial blast and then quickly as remarkably calm and self-possessed. Maybe that's just because they're TV professionals who know how to keep a broadcast going, but one has to wonder if even the United States' most practiced anchors would show quite that much composure right after having their studio shaken by what they quickly surmised to be a bomb.
An Arabic-speaking user on Reddit offered this translation, which begins with a line that registers, in retrospect, as almost frighteningly appropriate:
Guest: We need to change the present, if we have today -- (explosion)
Interviewer: Sounds like an explosion.
Interviewer: Dr. Hanin [the name of the guest], we heard an explosion around the perimeter. And they are hurrying to his position. Sound barrier [from an aircraft] or an explosion, we don't know but it's a loud bang we just heard.
Interviewer: Maybe the Israeli aircraft [she quickly cut herself off from this speculation] we don't know, we don't know, Dr. Hanin. But hearing any noise make us very afraid.
Guest: Of course.
Interviewer: Anyway, a short break and we'll be back to resume the episode.
In a strange twist of irony, the Future TV network was founded in 1993 by then-Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, who also led the closely linked political party Future Movement. Chatah, killed in today's blast, was not only a senior member of the Future Movement party but also a close aide to Saad Hariri, Rafiq al-Hariri's son and also a former prime minister.