Al mashriq - The Levant

ACS When The Fighting Started: A Student's View

by Connie Scott Walker '76

When we moved to Beirut in December of 1971, I remember my stepfather telling us that if fighting were to break out we would leave the country only after the Lebanese government told Americans to leave. I was sure we were in for some rough times ahead, and I wished we were back in New York.

Over the next three years we saw a lot of fighting -- conflicts with Israel, the Lebanese Army and the Palestinians, and finally, the civil war. I got used to scanning rooftops for snipers, sleeping in the inner hallway, living for days in the basement of a neighbor's building, and driving past roadblocks manned by masked men with guns.

At the close of school in the summer of 1975, things began to heat up. ACS families started to leave Lebanon and by the fall of my senior year many of my friends were gone. As the months went by and the situation worsened, our 75-member senior class was down to a handful or two.

My senior year was not how I imagined it would be. I was now eligible to enter the senior lounge, but there were so few of us seniors that it became everyone's lounge. The Aleph Beth, the student newspaper, could not be printed in town, so we ran it off on the school's mimeograph machine. We never looked for excuses to skip school, instead we prayed that classes wouldn't be canceled because of the fighting.

The war brought us all closer together. My friends weren't just from the upper classes, but from the seventh grade and the eighth grades as well. Our friendships were formed overnight, but they were strong and none of us wanted to leave.

In February of 1976, four months before my graduation, my family decided that it was too dangerous to stay. The Lebanese government wasn't asking Americans to leave; the American government wasn't even asking us to leave, but the shelling was coming too close.

We left behind a lot of things in Lebanon -- friends, furniture, old baby photos -- everything but our memories.