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The first bombs struck in the early morning of July 13 and didn't stop for 34 days.
From his house nestled high in a small mountainside town 10 miles away, Simon Samia had a remarkable view of the drama unfolding below. He watched helplessly as the warplanes approached and launched their deadly missiles on the land where many of his friends and customers lived.
The daily onslaught brought back childhood memories for Samia"a father's soothing voice in 1975 explaining why a 10-year-old boy should not be afraid of the great noises in the distance.
Now, 31 years later, Samia had to deliver the same message. He took his own 12-year-old twin boys by the hands and said, "Don't worry. They are not bombarding our zone. They are bombarding only that place. They are trying to get just one person."
But this time Samia wasn't so sure himself. "It was like watching a movie," he said. "Inside, I was so afraid."
War had started. Again.
This is the life of a solution provider in Beirut, Lebanon.
In a life filled with turbulent times, the last decade has been good to Simon Samia. The 41-year-old son of academics had grown up surrounded by violence: He was 10 years old when civil war broke out in Lebanon, and was well into adulthood when it ended.
But Samia carved out a nice career in telecommunications after college, and 10 years ago he co-founded a company to sell Cisco Systems solutions to commercial customers. It was a fortuitous time to start a company in Beirut. The war was slipping into memory and Lebanon was bustling. In just a few years, BMB Group became one of the few Cisco and Microsoft Gold partners in the Middle East, and business was booming. What started as a dream turned into a $10 million reality for Samia.
Then this summer, the war returned, threatening to take it all away. One July morning, Samia and BMB's other employees, along with thousands of other businesses and 3.8 million Lebanese residents, watched the skies explode over Beirut and Southern Lebanon. The militant organization Hezbollah had kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed three others. In response, Israeli Air Force jets descended on the country.
In late October, I traveled to Lebanon to visit BMB and some of its customers. I saw firsthand the natural beauty of the country's mountains and Mediterranean beaches as well as the ugly scars of wars past and present. And I learned why one solution provider's employees feel it is their duty to help rebuild the country and the economy—and how solution providers here can learn from their experience.
When word spread that Hezbollah had kidnapped the soldiers, Samia and other BMB employees feared a violent response from Israel. Nizar Ghannam, regional manager of BMB's document management division, was in the office on the afternoon of the kidnapping when he and his colleagues heard celebratory gunfire from a Hezbollah neighborhood just a few blocks away. The next morning, Ghannam awoke at 6 a.m. to the sound of warplanes and loud explosions. Unsure of what was going on, he turned on the TV. Israel, the news said, was bombarding the Beirut International Airport.
Roula Chehab, an account manager at BMB, also was awakened by the din of the airport attack. "I didn't move from my house. I live in an area where there is no Hezbollah, but the warplanes are very scary," she said.