Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
Listener supported WNYC Studios. Wait, you're OK? You're listening to Radiolab Radio from WNYC. Reading for the day is coming from Psalm 92, from verse 12, the righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. He shall grow like a cedar and Lebanon. Those who are planted in the House of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.
But the latest update, actually, I have a brother called Josh, by the way.
No way. And he's a stand up comedian and actually pretty famous in Lebanon. So what's his name? Josh Bucaram. Oh, wow.
Yeah, he's he has is like something he's on on a TV show, his handle on all these social media who's always been.
Oh my God. Because it's oh my God. You know. Yeah, I get it. This is Radiolab.
I'm Jad Abumrad.
We start this episode just for kicks with two jabs, but really it's about 47 Lebanon's Lebanon, of course, Lebanon. The country has been in the news a lot recently, but.
In the most heartbreaking way on this Tuesday night, an enormous explosion blasts through Beirut's horrific disaster. Rubble everywhere, buildings blasted open. The Red Cross has put out an urgent appeal for blood donors. My family comes from Lebanon and to be Lebanese. Is, I don't know. To be in a constant state of vertigo where you never know when the floor is going to drop out from under you.
Lebanon has a history of conflict and bombings at the scale of this is like nothing else. As we were watching this latest horror unfold, we happened to be simultaneously working on a story about Lebanon, very different story that in its own way kind of explores that feeling of dislocation. And it actually wasn't our story to begin with.
A year ago, I was listening to this wonderful podcast.
I'm Hiba Fisher, and you're listening to kerning cultures called Kerning Cultures, Radio Documentaries from the Middle East and heard a story called Lebanon USA.
In 2005, a Lebanese man immediately called Heba Fisher, who runs the podcast and asked her if we could air it, too. She very graciously said yes.
And the main character of the story, my name is Fadi Bucaram, is the guy with a brother named Jed and I'm a photographer.
And you also work in finance, right? Yeah, I do us tax law. OK, it's a growth industry. Yeah, but I'm on the good side, not the bad side. So I help the IRS catch people who don't pay their taxes. Oh, right on right now.
Fati story, the one I heard on and culture is the one that we're going to quote from now deals with a road trip, a road trip that frankly I've been wanting to do my whole life but have never gotten around to it that he actually did.
And it began for him on an ordinary day in Beirut about 15 years ago with an incident that eerily mirrors recent news. I was in my office. So you were working? I was working. It was in the human rights area by the beach.
This is downtown Beirut, you know, so. Yeah. So it was there, even though it took like half a second, that whole thing. But in my mind, it always plays in slow motion.
He says he was sitting in his office, third floor of a building, just typing away at his computer when all of a sudden the electricity went off and then you started feeling the earth like the floor rattling. And then I found myself just thrown off my chair and just landed on the other side of the office.
And then when I got there, it's like I remember, it's like, oh, crap, my there's glass on my face. And I remember seeing, like, feeling that blood is dripping on my neck and I'm thinking, oh my God, please let it not be my head. And the only reason I was thinking that is that I hate going to the doctor to get sutured. So when I was like, oh thank God, it was only my ear that was not my head.
So that's the kind of thing you think.
So before the bomb went off, were you looking out the window and seeing the I don't even know what was happening outside his car was just passing.
This was February 14th, 2005, when the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, was assassinated. His car had been driving a few blocks away from Fatty's office. So it wasn't.
No, you didn't. No, no, no. I had no idea. No, no. His car was passing.
Apparently, there was a hotel where some guy was standing with, like, a remote thing there waiting for him to pass through the spot and then boom and then, you know, oh, my gosh.
And so that was the moment for you where you thought, I need I need a change. Yes, I needed a break.
Fadi had basically grown up during the Lebanese civil war, which lasted fifteen years, destroyed the country many times over.
So when I applied to university, I didn't even care what I was applying for. So I applied for a master's in math, a master's in French literature. Like these are the things that didn't require any standardized tests because there was no time. So because I needed to get out as soon as possible. So because the assassination happened on Valentine's Day. So I remember that 2005 by March I had applied. By August I was accepted, uh, September I was out.
Wow. So you really were just like hitting the eject button, basically.
So Fatty moved to San Francisco, goes to school studying first math and then business. Few years pass that memory of Valentine's Day two thousand five sort of hovers over him and one day he finally decides to stare at it.
This is really the sort of Genesis moment.
He decides to think like, OK, what exactly happened that day? So he heads to Google and starts doing some searches.
I was looking for the exact spot where the prime minister was assassinated because a street view was new, relatively speaking. So I'm talking twenty seven, six. So I just wanted to see how the area looked from above and where my office was and all that. And I was typing Lebanon and it said Oregon. So. Oh, that's nice.
Deleted it or completed Lebanon. Oregon. Yeah, that must have been weird. My first idea, I was like, why the hell would they have they call their place.
I just thought it was funny. I had no idea it's like, why would there be the Lebanon outside my Lebanon? His next thought was, are there more than just this one in Oregon?
So I found a database of all the names of towns in the U.S. I downloaded it and looked at some data, data mining or whatever you call. And then there was over 40 of them.
Just like Jesus, he found 47 Lebanon's in the United States, Lebanon, Oregon, Lebanon, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Kansas, Lebanon, Nebraska, Lebanon. Kentucky, Lebanon. Junction, Kentucky. Lebanon, New York. New Lebanon. New York, Lebanon. Watpac, a county, Wisconsin. Lebanon, Connecticut. Lebanon, Indiana. Lebanon, Tennessee. Tennessee. I grew up next to Lebanon, Tennessee or Lebanon, as they say.
I always thought, well, some Lebanese must have just settled there at some point and just decided to call the town that. But I know that's not true. Why are there so many American towns named Lebanon? Oh, Bible.
One word Bible, yes. So for most of them, it would be you know, there were people were expanding west. This is in the late eighteen hundreds, mostly from east, expanding west.
So they would cross areas that they thought were very green and it would remind them of passages within the Bible. Old Testament, the righteous shall grow like a palm tree. There were multiply like the cedars of Lebanon so they would see trees. And in their minds it's like, oh, these are the leaders of Lebanon. And they were called the place Lebanon. In any case, Fatty downloads this list, and when I downloaded all the names, I thought, well, that be a nice trip to do someday when I retire, you know, and it all kept in the back of my mind.
So it's like, I'll do it someday. I'll do it someday. But then I came back to Lebanon and went to work. And then one time Christmas 2015, I was in Baghdad giving a workshop to the Central Bank of Iraq.
What and why? Wait, wait, wait, wait. Twenty fifteen. Yes, the central bank.
What were you talking to the Bank of Baghdad in 2015 about how to implement U.S. tax laws?
Apparently they needed to know that for some reason.
That's not the point. The point is, the day that I was going there, I had to be with bodyguards who had, you know, AK 47 in an armored car. There were so many what do you call that, like roadblocks. And someone had tried to blow himself up at the entrance of the bank.
And again, again, this is kind of like you get flashbacks and it's like, oh, OK. So I guess maybe that's why they asked me to provide a proof of life before going to to Iraq.
Proof of life, by the way, is where you have to list every identifying mark on your body just in case they have to recuperate the body in case I get killed.
After that, I came back, quit my job. I said, I want to do this trip.
Oh, so similar. Similar to the first. Oh, wow. Yeah. Oh, I did.
I had no idea. But that actually answers one of my big questions I want to ask you, which is. Why would you go to every level in America? I mean, it's an amazing idea, but but it's suddenly I understand. I get it.
You were you were looking it's almost like I mean, I'm going to say a thing and you can tell me if I'm both here. Mm hmm. It's almost like you got you left the country that made you and you were looking for it elsewhere. Is that is that is that stupid to say or is that does that. That is not stupid at all. It's very correct, actually. It's just asking the question, what does it feel like? You from the town called Lebanon?
What do you what does it feel like, you being from Lebanon, who does not know what war is? Who does not know what a bomb shelter is?
OK, that was all by way of introducing the story. Now I want to throw to the original piece that ran on kerning cultures.
Thank you again to Heather and the entire team over there.
The story was produced by Alex ATEC. He interviewed Faddy for this original story when Faddy was living in Beirut.
They met at his apartment. And we'll just pick up the story there.
So I guess I did nothing today. Had breakfast to my. That's it.
So when Fadi came up with the idea for this trip, his friends and his family were torn as to whether or not it was even a good idea for him to do it. They weren't sure if they wanted him to give up his life in his work in Lebanon to spend months on the road driving around a country where he knew next to nobody.
I had two sets of friends, like the friends of the finance world and the friends of the photography world. So the friends of the photography world was like, yeah, do it. You know, the friends of the finance world and the family and all that thought that I pretty much lost my mind that he planned his route anyway.
Hello, my name is Fadi and I'm a photographer from Lebanon, the country in the Middle East. This is him on his blog. I've flown all the way from Beirut to the United States to take a road trip to photograph and discover all the towns, cities and villages called Lebanon. And in America, there's over 40 of them.
The route was to stop all 47 Lebanon, starting in Seattle, Washington, where he rented an old camper from a guy he met on the Internet.
This is the entrance of the RV from the side where this would be, where the living quarters are, what call it was like it's a motor. So there's a couch there. It had and dinette table like a stove with four burners that had an oven and microwave, a shower driver's seat.
That's where I'll be driving it. And right on top is where the bed is at the time.
So you kind of plan it all and it's like super romantic idea in my head. Yes.
It's like it's just beautiful, you know, driving on the road and the open wide open spaces. It's just great. Like I said, I listen to classical music a lot. Into bluegrass, country, Celtic.
I don't know, it's a bit varied when I listen to but I got to say that I didn't get to listen to a lot of that often because large parts of the road, I did not have an Internet connection. So I had to listen to my thoughts a lot instead of the radio.
There was I couldn't even use Google Maps or I had to use an actual paper map because that's the only thing I get, Fati told Alex that those first two weeks driving from Seattle to Lebanon, North Dakota, sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots, only really seeing people at gas stations, if that totally upended his idea of America, like my idea of the US was New York, San Francisco and whatever other towns, it was just through movies.
So I took town after town where all the stores are boarded up, you know, places are for sale, foreclosed houses. It was really, really sad. But you find pockets within the US that are more third world than any third world country. His plan was quite simple. He wanted to just show up in each of these Lebanon and take pictures of the landscapes and the people that you found along the way. This photo was taken on the road and it was one of the some of the pictures are really cool, by the way.
You see bales of hay at sunset, a guy in a black cowboy hat asleep at a McDonald's. This photo, the reason why I like it is that because it's like two American cliches and one one it's a cowboy. And two, he's in a McDonald's. In another picture, you see a dead deer with its eyes open, hanging from a tree strung up from its hind legs. And it's just in someone's yard. This photo, after posting it, I understood a lot about the division between rural America and urban America.
Very similar story to Lebanon, the country where you have central Beirut, very glitzy. But then just a few miles away, people in the mountains living without electricity and in many cases first stop, Lebanon, North Dakota, population. One hundred people ish streets are empty, unpaved. He spoke with a Norwegian farmer, took pictures of the cemetery. But I left on that same day because there was nothing such a small town but Lebanon, South Dakota, just four hours south.
Even though it's tiny, it has 26 people. But over there, I went to the library and I did research about the town and all that. And it was the librarian who told me, go ask for Heysel in the Long Branch Saloon. This could be like a line out of a movie, seriously. So I went in and went to the Long Grass Saloon. It's all wood on the inside, you know, it looks like it it was built a long, long time ago.
It had a pool table, it had a jukebox and a lot of photographs behind the bar and all that. But it was it was not a tiny place, you know, like 30, 40 people could easily fit in there. And Hazel is the bartender and she's in her 70s. And at the time, I was hungry.
So I thought, can I have something like, can I order something to eat? And she said, I'll go to the back of the bar, open the freezer, bring me a frozen pizza. Let me heat it for you.
We called the long branch, but Hazel wasn't in that day, so we spoke to her colleague Linda instead.
Bimba, this is Linda. Hi, is this the Long Branch Saloon? Yes, it is. Hi.
I'm calling I have I have a kind of unusual. Lenzer is one of three women who work at Long Branch Saloon in Lebanon, South Dakota. It's a town of less than 50 people. So this is the only bar in town. And I called them up to ask if they remembered faddy.
Yeah, I remember him. Oh, you do have a picture taken with him.
When I called, it was around nine thirty in the morning for them and she was just starting her day, but she had some time. So she started telling me more about Lebanon, South Dakota.
Well, we're a very small town. There's only about 39 people that live here. We have a bar called the Long Branch and we also have an elevator in town. The elevator she's talking about isn't the kind of elevator you're thinking of.
She means a kind of high tech piece of farming machinery that digs into the ground and brings grain up from the depths of the earth.
We are known for the first outdoor swimming pool built in South Dakota. It was built in 1926 where kind of a quiet little town, Fabia was here and know she says Fábio here, but she means father. He came. We told him to come in on a Wednesday night. We have Dantzig league on Wednesday night. So there's usually about twenty four of us people around here.
Could you describe what the I mean, if you were to stand up, if you were to walk to the front door of the long branch now? I mean, what do you see?
Well, I'm here all by myself right now. I usually have a couple of guys that come in for coffee. I open up at nine o'clock and put the coffee on and I haven't seen any cars go down the street this morning. So far it's been kind of quiet in town. How many cars would you say go by on an average day?
I don't have each day. Oh, well, I don't know. Probably 10. I moved here in 72, but I live in Gettysburg before that, and that was just 10 miles west of here and I raised my kids here in town and back in 1972, there was about one hundred and thirty four people that lived here. But as the kids all grown up and I went to school and college and stuff, now it's just a group of old timers here who have worked in the bar here for about 43 years.
So I've gotten to know a lot of people from all the different towns around here, and we're kind of called the friendliest little we're family people made. That's kind of our motto. And we're friendly people, mate, and people have told us they enjoy coming to our little bar because of the bus, because I know we're getting up in age, you know, like 75, 73 and 71 years old. And I just had somebody here a month ago.
I said, what are they going to do with the Longbeach when you girls all quit working there? And I'm like, I don't know, because we've been here forever.
You know, it's that kind of a common problem in your Lebannon that like young people move away to kind of bigger cities or towns. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, you know, and my three girls got out of high school. I just basically told them, you better move to a bigger town because there's no opportunity here, you know, to make a career of anything. And. And so my kids did move to a bigger town.
Does it kind of make you feel sad that so many young people are leaving? Well, yeah, it does. I would say in 50 years or we're not even going to be a little town anymore.
I don't think so.
But at that moment, we're 30, sitting, eating a frozen pizza across the bar from Heysel in Lebanon, South Dakota. The two were talking. And then Fadi made this kind of amazing discovery.
I sat in and I was talking to her and she said, well, where are you from? And I said, from Lebanon. And as I said, Lebanon. Her eyes just lit up and she said, well, you got to get out of the bar now and go cross the street until you find a tree and you'll know what I'm talking about, which I did. And that's where they had a huge sign that says Cedar of Lebanon gift from the country of Lebanon to Lebanon, South Dakota.
And there was a big tree next to it. And it was not a signatory. It was a Jewish tree.
This is where the story gets interesting. Thus begins a bit of a detective story. But first, let me explain a little bit about what's going on here. Cedar trees are very easy to recognize they are. I mean, at least for Lebanese people, they are the symbol of Lebanon.
You see cedar trees on the flag that is burning in protest right now. They are on passports.
But like everything in Lebanon, I mean, this thing that is so much a part of the country is barely there anymore.
For thousands of years, various empires would march into Lebanon and take the Cedar's, the Romans used the cedars to build their walls. The Sumerians and Babylonians and Egyptians would make coffins out of cedar trees because they felt the wood would take them into the afterlife. As for the mystery of that specific juniper tree in Lebanon, South Dakota, that was posing as a cedar, here's what Fadi quickly discovered.
Yet a lot of Lebanese in America, starting in about 1880 and then moving through to the 1920s, you had like several hundred thousand Lebanese in America and jumping forward a bit, 1955 in Lebanon, the country, you had a prime minister, Camille Shamoon, who was a Christian guy.
I saw Lebanon as a real bridge between east and West. He heard about all of these Lebanon uses and he decided to reach out and invite seven mayors of the various Lebanon of the U.S. to come to Lebanon, the country, and go on a tour.
They came they spent two weeks here, seven of them. They visited the presidential mansion, the ancient ruins. They drove up the famous Kadisha Gorge to see the cedars of God, the few that remain.
And after two weeks, the first lady's alpha shaman gave each of them a sapling of Lebanese cedar to take back to their own towns to plant them.
Which brings us back to faddy in twenty sixteen standing in front of this juniper tree that was labeled as a seed, a tree gift from the country of Lebanon in nineteen fifty five. And while he was standing in front of it, he like knew straight away that this was not a cedar of Lebanon. So he started researching where this mix up came from.
I had to do a lot of digging in the archives of the Daily Star and my heart and road in Lebanon, all these newspapers. And then even after I went to the U.S., I started going from library to library in these places, doing going through the microfiche. One of those machines in libraries that like archives, old newspapers, as as tiny slides.
The person who was supposed to take care of the cedar trees was a guy called Charles Harris from Lebanon, Nebraska, who wasn't a town mayor himself. Actually, he was he was just a representative for the town of Lebanon, Nebraska. The mayor of Lebanon, Nebraska was like an older guy, so he couldn't make the trip himself. He sent a representative instead who was Charles Harris? And he was just twenty three years old, like he was a young guy.
He was twenty four, actually, but he was also an agronomy student, which is basically the study of plants and soil. So I suppose the rest of the I thought, OK, we'll give these saplings to this guy. He'll do whatever he needs to do with them to to adapt them to the US climate and we'll plant them back in the US when it's done. But that didn't happen. This is where the dark part of the history comes in.
Charles Harris did not go to Lebanon, Nebraska, after Beirut. He decided to go to Jerusalem first because it was close to Easter and he wanted to do a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and he got killed there.
Charles Harris was killed by a Jordanian border guard. Now the circumstances around his death are a little bit lost in time. But another New York Times article from 1955 says, quote, Charles B. Harris of Lebanon, Nebraska, was killed today in the Jerusalem no man's land by a Jordanian guard's rifle, shot a Jordanian sentry, shouted a warning. Mr. Harris apparently continued on his way. A shot from the guard killed him, end quote.
But because he got killed there, the trees, someone needed to take care of them, so they shipped them to Lebanon, Ohio instead, and the nursery in Lebanon, Ohio, they fumigated them to make sure they don't carry any pests or like diseases that are going to infect other trees in the area.
And as they fumigated them, six of the seven died, only one survived, and they kept it.
But what they did was instead of telling the other towns that the trees died, they sent them different species of trees and told them that this was a cedar tree.
But I didn't have the heart to tell them, by the way, I mean, they were proud of it, you know. So in any case, I went back to the bar and Hazel told me, you can come back in the evening because people could come in. You know, you'll you'll see more people.
So he went back that evening and played darts with some of the men, some of the friendly folks from Lebanon, South Dakota.
And I left in the morning for his next Lebanon. He continued this trip over the winter, visiting 46 Lebanon over the next four months. And then it was time to come back home to Beirut, back home to reality.
Long story short, after the first trip, I came back to Lebanon, my Lebanon. When I was doing the trip, I had quit my day job to focus on photography. But then, you know, that kind of life isn't very sustainable, financially speaking. So I was like, OK, maybe I should just take off my hat and go back to my old stuff. So, yeah.
So Fadi took a job teaching photojournalism. Wasn't really sure. What he should be doing, where he should be living, whether in Lebanon, the country or over in America, says he kind of felt a little free floating. But after he'd been back a few months, he got this text message from somebody in Lebanon, Nebraska. And suddenly the adventure took a whole new turn. That's after the break. Hi, this is Florian calling from Lintz in Austria.
Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.
More information about Sloan s w w w dot Sloan DOT Science reporting on Radiolab is supported in part by Science. Sandbox is Science Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.
This is Radiolab, I'm Jad Abumrad.
Back to our story from producer Alex Attack and the podcast Kerning Cultures is a story about a road trip from Lebanon, the country to 47 Lebanon, USA.
And then back when we left, faddy he was in Beirut, not quite sure what to do with his life when he gets a text message. Several actually from people he'd met in Lebanon, Nebraska, Lebanon, Nebraska.
They didn't have a real cedar tree. They had a juniper tree. But still they thought it was a cedar from Lebanon and it was a big tree. And they decorated it on Christmas because it was like by the town hall. And after I came back a few months after I came back. People started sending me photos of the tree and it got hit by lightning. And split in half, as I feels like there's a curse to me or something.
After I visited, yes, we had been there for 60 years, 60 years. And then just shortly.
Yeah, and it was it wasn't something like, you know, like it died. No, it had to be something like biblical.
So people start sending messages like with the picture of the trees. Yeah. Asking if I could replace it though.
So a plan started to formulate in the back of his mind, what if I can go back around America and repay all of these towns in some small way by gifting them real cedars of Lebanon?
I knew that I couldn't take the cedars from Lebanon because they were going to be fumigated again and that takes like two years. Instead, I found a nursery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to keep with the, you know, with the biblical thing. So a Lebanese guy, a Lebanese American guy, had brought the seeds from here but had grown the saplings over there.
Yeah, he actually reached out to me first. I was following his story, but then he reached out to me. I was like, oh, I know who you are.
OK, so I know the line isn't great here, but this is by Simon, who runs a tree nursery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
I work actually for Apple I that's my fulltime job. But I also operate a nursery called Screams of Joy, and they grow old trees that are not very common to this part of the world.
And as you might expect, he's also kind of an encyclopedia on Cedars of Lebanon.
There's even a seed of Lebanon tree in the White House in Washington, DC. No way. Yeah. How did that come to be there? That was in the 70s by Jimmy Carter. He planted that tree along with a group of Lebanese people in the late 70s.
So when Faddy reached out with this kind of strange idea, he was down to help.
Yeah, it's it's definitely not well, it's not for the money that I wanted to be involved in something like that. I have a daughter moderniser and seeing something that started as a seed in my nursery, it's like a baby and it's like, you know, having a baby that shows that to the man and goes to college and have a degree in something and have something accomplished. So S.A.C. that started out in my greenhouse to be it out in a city called Lebanon is really, really, really, really nice.
And I should say we're not just talking about chipping off a few envelopes of seeds here, which is what I initially thought.
So when you say post the tree, I mean, what are you posting? Is it like a seed or is it like a mini like what am I imagining here?
So it is a grown tree in the pot soil and, you know, physically grown. And so the three of us already about four years old.
And so in the autumn of 2013, faddy plant, his second trip around the US two years after his first trip, this time with the goal to replant eight Lebanese Cedar's in the towns that Charles Horace's saplings had never made it to.
So wherever I go into any of these Lebanon's he chipped me the trees for the close post office and that's where we plant them.
And on this trip, he ended up again in Lebanon, South Dakota. This is the the small town of under 50 people where he first discovered the mislabelled cedar trees, but he couldn't plant an actual Lebanese cedar here for one simple reason is that the weather in Lebanon, South Dakota, would not allow an actual cedar tree from Lebanon to live.
But I did. It was one of my favorite places to go to Lebanon, South Dakota. So I did go back on this trip and I went there because it was close to my birthday and I wanted to spend my birthday at the long branch.
I did not do that because my van broke down somewhere else and I was a few days late. But as I got there, I went into the bar and Jan was there.
Jan, by the way, is someone else who works at the Long Branch Saloon. And I just was wondering if she's going to remember me from two years ago. So the first thing she tells me, like not hello, not anything said, where have you been? That was the first question, as I do you do you remember me like. Yeah, I remember you supposed to be here a few days ago.
It turns out his aunt, who lives in San Francisco, knew he'd roughly be spending his birthday in Lebanon, South Dakota. So she called the bar, the Long Branch Saloon to let them know and mail the tray of baklava to the long branch for all of them to eat.
She said, you got to come back tonight. So I came back tonight and it was Jan and Jim. And they were playing and they played for me, you know. Yes, yes. Well. He came in and we had a little party for him. This is Linda from the Long Branch Saloon. Again, McRoberts, he played the guitar and he played the accordion and and we had music. And Fabio was taking pictures of them while they were playing.
And we had a group picture with him with all the people in the bar that night. I owe. So after spending his birthday in Lebanon, South Dakota, he continued on his trip and one of his next stops was Lebanon, Missouri.
I will admit that I teared up a little bit when the mayor of Lebanon, Missouri, came and he presented to me with a proclamation of friendship between like an official one between their town and our country.
So this is the proclamation that Mayor Jared Car of Lebanon, Missouri, signed on that day. The city of Lebanon and communities across America share a bond with the country of Lebanon, not only through name, but friendship. Americans have growing social, cultural and economic ties to the global community as we seek to communicate with and understand our partners from different language and cultural backgrounds. And it was something I mean I mean the words in it that was just like it was touching.
Those thousands of miles may separate our countries. Our communities are bonded in friendship and an historic connection dating back to 1955. And the mayor actually designated an entire day to this September 20th in Lebanon, Missouri is now the day of friendship between the Republic of Lebanon and the town of Lebanon, Missouri. Over these four months, he planted eight trees in eight different Lebanon's. And in some way, that brings us full circle. I'm just curious, like you started off your journey by leaving whatever it was you were looking for.
Do you feel like you found it? It just reminded me of a thing, which is when I was in Lebanon, Wisconsin, one of the lessons in Wisconsin, because there two Lebanon war, Pasco County, Wisconsin. So it had no people at all. But I was going to sleep for the night and I was trying to find a place to sleep because I was in a camper van. So I was in an RV and I remember seeing there was a church parking lot.
So I thought, OK, I'll sleep there. And then the next morning when I woke up and I remember getting out and it was Misty and you could smell the smell of cow manure. Right. And for a lot of people, the idea of cow manure is not the very pleasant thing. But for me, it was just so good to smell that it triggered this whole memory thing from when I was growing up, because at one point during the Civil War, it was so messed up because we're in the bomb shelter and all that.
Our neighbors who are from the village, from a village in the Bekaa are called terrible.
They said, OK, how about we go there, just spend some time there, because it's not there's not a lot of bombing there. Remember when we went there, it was just a village and we were in the fields the whole day smelling cow manure the whole time. But for someone who had been cooped up in a bomb shelter and now who's just running freely, it just triggered this whole idea of cow manure being freedom, you know? Yeah, I remember when I walked out of that RV and I smelled that it felt like, oh, my God, it's like that moment was.
Well, it was a it was a I don't like powerful is a bit of an overused word, but it was a strong moment and enough of a strong moment for me that I slept in that same spot without moving for three days. No kidding, yeah, because it's just like it just transports you back to this good time. It's like I didn't want to move. It was just a happy time.
Let me offer a postscript to the story I mentioned that I grew up near Lebanon, Tennessee, my dad still lives there.
That was one of the seven places where a family planted the trees. Well, I happened to be visiting him this week.
And he and nine my kids, we drove up that this year and tried to find the little plaque in the cedar tree that Fadi had planted with the mayor in a whole ceremony.
All right. I'm told it's in this playground. It was in a public park. Oh, here it is. Yeah, here it is. And we did find the little stone plaque, Lebanese cedar tree from the country of Lebanon, Sideris, Lebanese, I guess that's the technical term. Sideris, Lebanese Cedar of Lebanon, presented by Fadi Bucaram to the city of Lebanon in August 3rd, 2013. But next to the plaque and their kids playing. But there's no cedar tree.
I like where's the tree? I noticed there's a guy in a green shirt who look like the groundskeeper about 20 yards away. Can you tell me what happened? Where the tree to go to? It was a twig about that. OK, let me show the kid. Remarkable. Ran it over. Oh, so they want to push OK to tweak it. Had nothing on it. And so someone stepped on it or something. Well I'm sure they did.
We came in one morning. It was down to when did that happen. Oh that was the third one to go. Yeah. That little tree right there will never make it there. Wow. Man, they ran over the kids and over and then the kids got my dad and they were like, well, that's just fitting.
But then walking back to the car, he and I decided, you know, what would also be fitting if we just replanted the tree? So yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. We'll call faddy the guy from Pennsylvania will have him send us a new tree. Just send it to you and you bring it over to him. So we made a plan then. I mean, it would cost you to call back Samin at the Bethlehem Nursery arranged for him to send my dad new cedar sapling.
And we're going to bring that back to Dave to replant. This piece was made in collaboration with Kerning Culture as a podcast to tell stories from the Middle East and North Africa, both Arabic and English. Be sure to check them out because they are amazing at kerning cultures. Dotcom, huge thanks to them. The original story was reported by Alex ATEC with editorial support from Bela Ibrahim, Dana Ballout, Zena Duder and Haba Fisher, Original Sound Design by Alex Aztek.
The new update of the story was produced by Molly and we had original music by Thomas Coner and Jad A2A. So now that makes three jazz. You can read more about Fatty's trips and see his photographs at Lebannon, USA Dotcom or on his Instagram at Lebannon USA. And if you'd like to donate to Beirut at this difficult time, we've got a bunch of links on our website, radio laberge. Thank you for the sport and for listening. I'm Jad Abumrad.
See you next time. Hi, I'm Jenny Divine, calling from Milan, Italy. Radiolab is created by Jad Abumrad with Robert Krulwich and produced by Sean Wheeler. Dylan Keith is our director of Sound Design. Suzy Lichtenberg is our executive producer. Our staff includes Simon Adler, Jeremy Bloom, Becca Bressler, Rachel Kucik, David Jebal, Bessel Habtoor, Tracy Hunt, Matt Kyuki Tobin, Mo Annie mckewon lots of NASA, Sarah Quarrie, Adrian Walke, Pat Walters and Molly Webster with help from CIMA Oldy, Sarah Steinback and Russell Graig.
Our fact checker is Michelle Harris.