Beirut blast: Pictures of a smiling Gaia are the last trace of a life erased

Unanswered questions and an unopened drawer full of Gaia's childhood photos: a family in mourning

Powered by automated translation

The glow from a computer illuminates Mariana Fodoulian’s face in the dimly-lit room of her family’s new mountain home.

She is watching a slide-show of her late sister's photo.

Gaia, who was 29, died when their previous home was destroyed in the Beirut port blast six months ago.
Mariana and Gaia's former flatmate Stephanie slowly go through photos of a smiling Gaia in the sitting room.

Candles lit in her memory illuminate framed photos of the late art gallery director.

Mariana’s mother Annie watches on.

The family has moved to the mountains above Beirut, out of sight of a city that still bears the scars of the explosion that killed Gaia.

Six months on, Annie has not yet opened the drawer that houses all her late daughter’s childhood pictures.

“For everybody Gaia is Gaia, what they know now. But for me Gaia is the one who I delivered, who I took care of. Gaia is something else for me… So it’s completely different,” she says.

Even when Gaia was studying abroad in Italy, her family says it was like she never left.

“It was as if she was with us. She never left her room, sitting around the computer with the family. And that was something very important for me, in my life.”

For Mariana, Gaia was the only person she could trust, even though she has a twin brother.

The Fodoulians, like the families of more than 200 people killed in the blast, demand justice above all else.

Many other families of the victims of the Beirut port disaster now hold regular protests, and Mariana joins them with her signboard and sister's photo, calling for answers surrounding the events of August 4's blast.

The Lebanese government has been accused of stalling the investigation and trying to obfuscate facts around who was responsible, fearing a political backlash. Calls from the UN for an independent international inquiry have not been heeded.

“I would like to know who did this. There are many questions. Who brought the [ammonium] nitrate? Who knew about it? And then who exploded it?” Mariana says.

Twenty-five mid to low-ranking officials are in jail awaiting trial, but Lebanon's key decision makers remain free as the domestic investigation into the blast goes adrift and accountability remains unattained.