A grandmother whose home for 60 years was destroyed by the explosions in Beirut found some peace and comfort in one of her only possessions left undamaged: her piano.
May Abboud Melki returned to her home on Tuesday following the massive explosion that reportedly killed at least 135 people and injured thousands more, only to find that her property had been completely decimated except for her beloved piano, CNN reported.
Though debris and glass lay scattered around the room with window structures dangling from the walls, May, 79, found some solace in her musical instrument for a few minutes as she sat down to play "Auld Lang Syne."
The powerful moment was captured on video and later shared on the Facebook page of May's granddaughter, May-Lee Melki. Eventually, more than 1.4 million people viewed May's unwavering calmness — a "symbol of hope" amid a chaotic scene.
"She pushed through the pain and tried to have a few moments of peace," May-Lee told CNN, adding that she shared the video because she "was able to express a symbol of hope and peace among all of the despair."
According to May-Lee, her grandparents were both not home at the time of the explosion, which occurred over a mile away. Luckily, neither suffered injuries, but she noted to CNN that her grandfather's store was also destroyed in the blast.
Though they were happy to make it out unscathed, May-Lee said her grandparents were understandably devastated about their home for six decades getting wrecked when they returned on Wednesday.
"It survived the entire civil war… It witnessed bullets go through it," May-Lee, who is currently based in Virginia, explained to CNN. "They have rebuilt themselves over and over again."
After sitting down to play "Auld Lang Syne" on her piano, which was a wedding gift from her father, May started playing Arabic hymns, which her granddaughter told the outlet led to clean-up volunteers gathering around to join in worship.
"To see her lean into her faith, lean into God was something that was a strong message to her community and our family immediately," May-Lee shared.
The explosion, which occurred near Lebanon's capital city waterfront, was so powerful, it was felt more than 150 miles away in Cyprus, The New York Times reported, adding that the neighborhood in which it occurred was “essentially flattened.”
The fatal blast may have begun with a fire that then spread to fireworks that then ignited ammonium nitrate being stored in the port, the Associated Press reported, citing both experts and footage from the blast.
Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told a local TV station that he believed more than 2,700 tons of the chemical compound — commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer — were detonated in the blast, according to the AP.
The ammonium nitrate had reportedly been stored in a warehouse at the dock since 2014, when it was confiscated from a cargo ship. A Lebanese general, however, told local TV that it would be "naive to describe such an explosion as due to fireworks," according to CNN.
As officials continue to investigate and provide the city with aid, people are being encouraged to help by donating to several relief organizations, including The Lebanese Red Cross, UNICEF and Save the Children.
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