Surviving Earthquakes: My Personal Story of Resilience and Hope

Murat
5 min readFeb 27, 2023

Reflections on the 1999 and 2023 Türkiye Earthquakes

Photo by Jens Aber on Unsplash

This is a personal and very emotional story for me. As I write this, I cannot help but feel the weight of these recent disasters on my heart.

The first time I experienced an earthquake, I was just a little kid. It was the devastating earthquake in 1999 August 17th that hit my hometown in Türkiye, at 03:02 AM with 7.6 magnitude, leaving thousands dead and countless others displaced.

I still remember the chaos and confusion that followed — the sudden shaking, the sound of buildings crumbling around me, the fear and confusion that gripped me and my family.

In the days that followed, we were among the lucky ones. We survived, but many couldn’t make it, and we were forced to flee to another city where we lived in a makeshift shelter for a year.

My education was disrupted, and I was forced to attend a different school far from home. It was a difficult time, but we adapted as best we could, grateful to be alive.

We were lucky to have each other, but the trauma and uncertainty of that time left a lasting impact on me.

Fast forward to today, The recent earthquake that hit the region has brought back memories…

On a fateful Monday, the 6th of February 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Kahramanmaraş, Türkiye and surrounding cities (Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Adana, Adıyaman, Osmaniye, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya and Elazığ) at 04:17 in the early hours of the morning, only to be followed by another quake with a magnitude of 7.6 after a gap of 9 hours, at 13:24, leaving a trail of devastation and despair in its wake.

Now, more than two decades later, and I find myself once again grappling with the aftermath of an earthquake in Türkiye. The recent earthquakes that struck Türkiye and Syria have brought back so many memories and emotions for me of that terrible night in 1999.

The devastation is heartbreaking, and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, homes, and communities.

The loss of our relatives during the earthquake has left an unfillable void in our lives. It feels as though a part of us has been ripped away, leaving behind only an ache that seems to grow more unbearable with each passing moment. The thought that we will never see their smiles again, never hear their laughter, never feel their embrace, is almost too much to bear. We are left with only memories, and the crushing weight of grief. But we will continue to hold them in our hearts, and we will honor their memory by coming together to support one another during this difficult time.

As I watch the news and hear about the devastation and loss of life, I am reminded of the sheer power of nature and the fragility of our human existence. It’s a sobering reminder of how little control we have over our lives, and how important it is to cherish the moments we have with the people we love.

I know firsthand how hard it is to be displaced from your home and forced to start over in a new place. The trauma of the earthquake stays with you, long after the ground stops shaking. And yet, I also know that Türkiye is a place of resilience and strength. I have seen firsthand the way that communities come together in the face of adversity, supporting one another and rebuilding in the aftermath of disaster.

At the same time, I am heartened by the resilience and strength of people in affected areas. Despite the unimaginable loss and destruction, I have seen countless acts of kindness and bravery as people come together to support one another.

For those of us who have lived through a major earthquake before, this latest disaster is a painful reminder of how much work remains to be done. We know all too well the challenges that lie ahead for those who have lost everything, and the long road to recovery that lies ahead.

Magnitude 5.6 quake hits Türkiye’s Malatya in latest major aftershock — 27 February 2023

Unfortunately, the nightmare for those affected by the recent earthquakes in Türkiye continues, as there have been reports of more seismic activity in the region.

On February 20th, just a 14 days after the Kahramanmaraş and surrounding cities were hit, while the wounds of the earthquakes have not yet healed, two earthquakes with magnitudes of 6.4 in the Defne district of Hatay at 20:04 on February 20, followed by a 5.8 magnitude in the Samandağ district at 20:07, occurred, causing further fear and distress for the local population. And as of writing this story, news has emerged of yet another earthquake in Malatya, which hit on February 26th and reportedly had a magnitude of 5.0.

It is clear that the people of Türkiye are living through a difficult and trying time, but it is important to remember that they are not alone.

In the face of tragedy, I have seen countless acts of kindness, bravery, and selflessness from individuals and communities across the country. From rescue workers risking their lives to save others, to ordinary citizens opening up their homes to those in need, there are countless examples of people coming together to support one another.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by these earthquakes. As someone who has experienced the trauma of displacement and loss firsthand, I know how important it is to come together as a community and support one another in times of crisis.

For those of people who are not directly impacted by the earthquakes, there are still ways to offer help and support.

Donations to reputable aid organizations (AFAD, AKUT, Ahbap) can go a long way in providing much-needed relief and resources to those affected. Believe me, very small contribution can be very helpful for those who are in need.

And even small gestures, like checking in on friends or colleagues who have ties to the affected regions, can make a world of difference.

At times like these, it is important to remember that we are all part of a global community, and that our actions and words can have a real impact on those who are suffering. By staying strong and standing together, we can help those affected by the earthquakes in Türkiye & Syria to rebuild and recover, one step at a time.

Let us be the change we wish to see in the world, and extend a helping hand to our fellow human beings in their time of need.

Together, we can make a difference and help rebuild the lives of those affected by these earthquakes.

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Murat

From adversity to triumph, I've overcome challenges and pursued my dreams! Now, I'm inspiring others to do the same.