EARTHQUAKES: THE AFTERMATH
Tent City, Earthquake aftermath, August 1999, Gulhane Park, Istanbul
By Angie Brenner
Earthquakes are nothing new to those of us living along California’s San Andreas Fault line. I’ve experienced rolling, jolting, and grinding quakes, yet have managed to remain unscathed from death and damage. There are, in fact, so may small shakes here, that we become complacent. Well, almost. I still avoid sitting under concrete freeway overpasses, remembering those who lost their lives in the 1989 San Francisco Bay Area earthquake when double-decker highways collapsed.
I missed all but the aftershocks of the devastating August 17, 1999 earthquake near Istanbul, Turkey (when more than 17,000 died and half a million people were left homeless) by a day. WRR editor, Joy Stocke, and I were floating in ignorance and bliss near Cleopatra’s cove in the Mediterranean Sea.
We learned via television in a local taverna that a disaster of major proportions had struck the Istanbul area, an unfathomable event that left its mark on our Turkish friends to this day, and inspired a novel by author Alan Drew, Gardens of Water. Mr. Drew writes about the aftermath, the communities of displaced people, and American aid workers.
Wild River Review Editor in Chief, Joy Stocke, and I spent 48 hours in the aftermath of Istanbul’s quake where millions of Istanbul’s citizens, as well as most of our fellow hotel guests, slept outside in parks and gardens.
Fear gripped the city. Everyone wondered what the future would hold and laid blame on shoddy construction and greed. But time does heal. Last November, when Joy and I visited Istanbul, there was no trace, physically or emotionally from the earthquake ten years prior. The city was celebrating its’ founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and scheduling the many cultural events in preparation of a year as the 2010 European Capital of Culture.
Istikal Boulevard, Istanbul, Turkey
While we reconnected with friends over mezas and raki and walked along Istikal, the pedestrian boulevard in the hip neighborhoods of Beyoglu, Cihangir and Taksim, we talked about the resilience of the human spirit, and the people who come together to help – it was the Greek government (long thought to be an adversary) who were the first to help Turkey’s earthquake victims.
The losses of life and property which the people of Haiti are experiencing today are difficult to imagine, and our heartfelt sympathies are with them. Yet, I know that the Haitian survivors, like the people in Turkey a decade ago, will work through this disaster.
There are many who are coming to their aid, and many blaming the high loss of lives on the lack of infrastructure. It leaves me to wonder why we are so generous to help in the aftermath of a disaster, but reluctant to help people move out of the poverty that exacerbates such catastrophes. Haiti might have been a place on the moon for many of us who never thought once about their day-to-day plight of poverty – until last week. Like New Orleans, the signs were there: the threads of colonization, capitalistic opportunity, political despotism, apathy. Who will be the next people to suffer such loss after an earthquake, tsunami, or other disaster?
Angie Brenner is West Coast Editor for Wild River Review. She is completing a memoir about her journeys in Turkey, Anatolian Days & Nights.