A family waits among others in painful desperation for over a week in a parking lot in Hatay, Turkey as bodies of their loved ones are pulled from the rubble of an apartment building that collapsed after a massive 7.8 earthquake struck. They were eventually able to bring the young couple and their two children who perished home to a final resting place and were embraced by a community in mourning.
Neriman Sarac and her son Mustafa wait by a fire in Hatay, Turkey on February 13, 2023. Her daughter Zehra, 34 was buried under the rubble of an apartment building that collapsed after a massive 7.8 earthquake. Zehra's husband Hikmet Yüzgüleç, 35 with their children Kaan, 4 and baby Bilge also perished. They wait among others in painful desperation for over a week in a cold parking lot for bodies of loved ones. The confirmed death toll stood at 59,259.
The couple's both mothers bore tragic circumstances with quiet dignity and grace. They slept in their cars amid the ruins and waited. Neriman said sadly, ‘The description of suffering is the same everywhere in the world - Ukraine, Turkey. It is human suffering.’
Hikmet wanted to be a journalist covering conflict and natural disasters. But his mother Hülya was glad he instead had a stable life. The irony of him dying in an earthquake was not lost on her. She now regrets preventing him from reaching his dreams.
Many blame shoddy construction for the vast number of possibly preventable deaths. Some are considering lawsuits to prevent such dire consequences in the future.
Hikmet and his son were located then Mustafa walked on the rubble and identified his sister. She was found holding her baby protectively in a mortal embrace. The family embraced and wept, then began the 12-hour drive to their home in Bursa, near Istanbul.
It takes a village to grieve such profound loss. Women packed the living room before the funeral to support Neriman. They held her hand and embraced her heart. The sense of community was more solid than the bricks and mortar that collapsed across Turkey.
At the cemetery, the two mothers laid white flowers on heir children’s graves in a final farewell. There was a palpable sense of solace after this last step in the long wait was complete. The house was later filled into the night with family and friends that embraced each other’s hearts as Turkey mourned its dead.