The warmth of “home” scaled down into a space of loss, grief and dislocation

I am “putting pen to paper” after two consecutive earthquakes of magnitudes 7,8 and 7,6, merely nine hours apart, shook us to the bones… crumbling to pieces the terrain, our hearts, our minds, our families, our hopes. Millions of lives are shattered, almost beyond repair.

The whole country is in mourning. Except for the rescue workers and the medical staff, few have the strength to comfort one another. So I am doing what I know best – talking with a blank page.

A barren piece of paper always welcomes words.

My home land Türkiye is fault-ridden, prone to earthquakes. 

As the death toll increased and despair bred rage at the agonizing slow rescues, focus has lamentably turned to asssigning blame.

No doubt the quakes were extremely powerful yet the fact that both the authorities and the public blaming faulty construction for multiplying the devastation is pathetic.

The physical, psychological, social damage is irreversable.

What should have been done was to tighten codes to make the buildings more tremor proof.  

Instead, construction violations translated to areas blanketed with toppled buildings that entombed their residents when they plunged.

The first quake hit at 04:17 February 6, 2023. Many were “caught” in their sleep, in their beds, in their “homes”.

Home is a complex and layered concept.  To have one seems both a human right and a gift.

To lose a home is like stepping to the edge of a vast merciless sea.

To lose a home is also to lose the daily routines and habits that are our companions.  The  routes travelled to and from that home, the conversations, the laughs, the celebrations, the encounters that bond us to our identities.

I believe that one can read into peoples’ lives through glimpses of the objects that fill their domestic spaces.

The big and little things we pick up or are given mark the territory of our homes. Shelves stacked with items representative of “us”: books, records, knickknacks, framed pictures that bear memories or hold value. The little altars we erect in our homes give meaning to our lives and our relationships.  We often downplay these trinkets as merely material objects, yet these ornaments garnishing our homes, whether sparse or plentiful, represent our agency and ability to create our spaces in ways that nourish us.

The objects that we choose and those which choose us in the ecosystem we call home give each of us a sense of emotional and mental wellbeing.  They help us feel connected and rooted.

More than one million people have been rendered homeless in Turkey and many left without shelter in Syria.

Many were caught in their sleep and ran out of their homes with just the clothes on their backs, no past.

Some were fortunate enough to flee to the safety of families or friends in cities further North.

However those without the financial stability, cars or a network to call upon, have absolutely nowhere to go.

Some find temporary shelter.

Some of the survivors are camping outside of their collapsed homes, sheltering under a plastic tarpaulin.

The displaced huddle on roadsides, sleep in cars or shelter in overcrowded mosques, sports arenas.

Many are keeping vigil for their missing loved ones. 

Authorities have mobilized an enormous aid effort with tens of thousands of rescue workers with volunteers from around the world to dig through the rubble of collapsed buildings for bodies and, occasionally survivors. 

Tent cities are being erected with mass support of humanitarian aid groups and social workers to house residents whose homes were destroyed, distributing food, medicine and other basic needs.

As I am filling the blank page with words, the search for survivors continue.

It’s usually rescue dogs that detect human scent in a pile of wreckage. Then people listen for a voice from within and pick at debris with axes, saws and shovels.  Entombed in the rubble, some of the fortunate are extricated, covered in a silver thermal blanket and whisked away into an ambulance. 

Unfortunately as the clocks ticks, the hope of rescuers chipping away at the pile of heavy concrete and iron rebar searching for life grows grim.

Most homes built with much care and love are now silent.

Those homes have turned into graves for those living in them.

It’s the worst not to be able to hear the voice of your loved ones, not know where they are, whether they’re stuck, whether they’re alive under the rubble in their “homes”.

To lose a home is like stepping to the edge of a vast merciless sea.

#earthquake #turkiye #home #love #care #family #devastation

One thought on “The warmth of “home” scaled down into a space of loss, grief and dislocation

  1. The pain is beyond words and what makes it worse is the fact that the damage could have been reduced if ……yes , that is a big ‘if’’ after which one can continue as they please. As long as we do not rely on our lessons learned and take action accordingly I am afraid we will have more of these if’s in Turkey.

    Liked by 2 people

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