International Airport – Beirut, Lebanon 2006
Heat and humidity is finding its purpose in the bustling morning of a sun-soaked airport. The sounds of Arabic chatter, red porters and family partings pollute the air, few individual voices distinguishable in the cacophony. Travellers, having checked-in and completed passport control, are scurrying to the final check point.
James and his wife itemise their belongings into the ubiquitous plastic bins, launching them onto the conveyor belt and into the mouth of the X-ray monster.
Security guards watch as the humans wait in the queue.
The sign warns in Arabic and English – NO Liquids, Metal or Electronics
It doesn’t sound very friendly.
’Finally it’s the couple’s turn. The woman gives a warm smile, but it’s not returned. She’s Lebanese and doesn’t take it personally. The guard is more robotic than discourteous. He checks her ticket and passport.
“Liquids, metal, phone?”
She shakes her head in a polite no before being directed into the body scanner. Her husband follows in her footsteps, just behind the neon-yellow line. He produces his papers for the guard, but he’s clearly distracted.
“liquids, metal, phone?” the security guard asks, stepping aside and the man advances inside the scanner. His arms above his head, he assumes the position, but he flinches as the scanner swings left to right...
It’s as if time is slowing. The man realises his mistake. His hand drops to his side... Time moves even more slowly now, the man’s fingers travelling miles to cover inches. The tips of his fingers finally connect with a strange metal object, nestling inside his pocket. At first look, it might be mistaken for a piece of jewellery – a metal blade on a long leather string – but its design is sinister. As if the man’s touch is a trigger, an explosion rings out in the airport.
Immediately, the ponderous slow motion is exchanged for over cranked time. The man disappears from inside the machine and chaos erupts. Screams are drowned out by a wall of sound. The ground shakes as the air fills with dust and particles. Just as the chaos reaches a peak, abstraction takes over and reality fades and blurs. Flashes of light mix with colours and muddled sounds. It’s a watercolour painting of absolute terror. But the fear and violence and chaos begin to fade. The sounds grow indistinct, as if they’re moving far into the distance. It’s almost silent, until...
New sounds take over.
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