Zeina Kassem Signs La Traversée, in Arabic and French
23 October 2015
Baroud: Zeina’s action in society is rescue work that sketches a smile on her son’s face with every heartbeat of a person saved from death
Amin Al-Daouk: Kassem is a bereaved mother who put her sorrow in the service of those whom destiny put at the mercy of reckless drivers
Father Wittouck: Talal Kassem has become a genuine symbol, which sheds a light on the negligence and idleness when faced with disastrous youth deaths
The Pierre Abou Khater Hall at the Université Saint Joseph (USJ) hosted on Monday evening the book signing of La Traversée, a book written by Roads for Life President (RFL) Zeina Kassem and published by Tamyras for the French version and Dar Al-‘Ilm Lil Malayin for the Arabic version under the title Oubour.
In the book, Zeina describes her experience following the death of her son Talal who was run over by a reckless driver.
The proceeds of this book will go to support the rescue training programs sponsored by Roads for Life for ER physicians, nursing staff and EMS workers knowing that this has been RFL’s mission since its inception by Kassem in order to improve the chances of saving trauma victims during the “golden hour” of trauma following the accident.
The list of figures who attended the ceremony includes Ms. Lama Salam, representing PM Tammam Salam, Minister of education Elias Bou Saab, Minister of culture Raymond Aarayji, former Ministers Adnan Kassar, Khaled Qabbani, Layla al-Solh Hamadeh and Ziad Baroud, Apostolic Nuncio Gabriele Caccia, Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association President Amin Al-Daouk, and several foreign ambassadors in Lebanon, in addition to political and media figures.
Father Wittouck said that Talal’s tragic death five years ago has transformed into a “symbol, which sheds a light on the level of negligence within the public administration and the idleness of authorities when faced with a true societal phenomenon in Lebanon, namely the tragic death of our youth knowing that the list of victims is getting longer by the day.” In many case, he argued, “non-compliance with the law is certainly something to hold against reckless drivers.
Nevertheless, what is the state doing to protect pedestrians and cyclists?” Wittouck asked “how many more mothers will have to mourn the loss of a child because of other people’s unconsciousness,” before noting that “Talal was not the first – and will unfortunately not be the last – name on this dramatic list, which is getting longer by the day.” He wondered, “How many more people will meet the same fate as Talal before our roads become roads for life rather than roads for death? There are many reforms to be undertaken, but when will we take the initiative in this respect?”
He went on saying, “Talal died silently, without warning. All of a sudden, our senses could no longer perceive him. His loved ones feel unspeakable suffering, but they find solace in others – friends, acquaintances and all people present here today – sharing part of their pain.”
Wittouck quoted Zeina’s remark in her book: “A wife who loses her lifetime companion is called a “widow”. A husband who loses his wife is a “widower”. A child who loses one of his/her parents becomes an “orphan”… Yet is there a name, an adjective or any expression in Arabic or any other language to designate a mother who has lost her child? Such loss cannot be accepted when it comes to language, for no letters or words can convey its meaning… We may be able to describe how this death occurred, but why it happened will always remain a mystery.” He then added, “Talal is gone to meet the Lord his maker, who has called him back to His fold. But why did it happen at such a young and promising age? Did God find in Talal’s short life enough love to shine well beyond his family circle? Could it be that God wanted to spare him a lifetime of pitfalls and disappointments? We shall never know. All we do know is that God found Talal so kind as to call him back to His fold.”
Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association President Amin Al-Daouk started his address in a poetic tone, as he asked: “Is Talal watching over his city from the heavens? Or is he watching the ruins of a civilization, which brought him to this world only to kill him later?”
“Looking into the eyes of Zeina and Amer, one sees what no book could ever convey,” he added. “One reads thousands of words coming from the heart of a bereaved mother expressing unspeakable pain in every line… albeit without surrendering to pain (…)However, she did surrender to her civic duty and put her sorrow and that of Amer, her lifetime companion, (…)in the service of those whom destiny put at the mercy of reckless drivers… in the service of undeniable competence among EMS volunteers and ER physicians… in the service of a string of measures to be taken on our roads for the sake of life, rescue measures within the sixty golden minutes during which Talal crossed over into eternal life… It is during these sixty golden minutes that his parents, Amer and Zeina, were moved by passion (…) to help parents who might find themselves in the same situation as theirs.”
Zeina’s “crossing”, he said, “is not about moving from one place to another by taking a particular road or crossing from one bank to another. Rather, it is about crossing into the heart of a bereaved mother who allowed us into this grotto that is filled with tenderness, compassion and love. The aim is not the act of crossing per se, but rather to follow the internal dialogue within this heart. It is as though each person were living a personal internal experience.”
The course of Roads for Life, Daouk remarked, is a course marked by serious work, determination and success (…) This was a noble, serious and scientific course.” Roads for Life “involved universities, hospitals and medical centers. She held scientific, academic and medical seminars. She organized workshops during which she provided comprehensive training.” Zeina Kassem’s “insistence exerted an influence on MPs and politicians who took on their duties, leading to the promulgation of the traffic law. Zeina breathed a sigh of relief and went on to put a rose on Talal’s tomb.”
Former Minister Ziad Baroud then delivered an address during which he said that Kassem “told with her heart rather than through her words a story of heartbreak and pain written with the blood of a wound that does not heal and the tears of a mother that would not dry. The story told in between the lines of this book is far deeper than anything words can express.”
Baroud addressed Kassem in these words: “Your action in society is not a failed attempt to run away from yourself (…) Rather, it is rescue action through which Talal lives on, one that sketches a smile on his face with every heartbeat of a person saved from death. Roads for Life unite people whereas roads for death bring them apart.”
In Baroud’s opinion, Kassem’s experience “is a lesson in motherhood when it is torn from itself, a lesson in deep-set faith in the fact that Talal is part of God’s plan. I learned from her that life is greater than something that ends along a road or in a hole. I learned from her that loved ones never leave.”
In conclusion, Kassem took the floor and thanked USJ, the audience, the sponsors, the media, Roads for Life members, the two publishers and her own family, before saying: “I thank Talal from whom I derived the strength and determination to go on for the sake of roads for life.