This morning I expereinced something miraculous, wonderous, beautiful, strange, and different. Today is the 72nd anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s death. He was the founding father of modern Turkey. At exactly 9:05 this morning, the precise time that he passed, all of Turkey came to a standstill for 2 minutes of silence. I was driving on a highway at that time. All of the vehicles stopped. I stopped. The radio stations went silent. A few people got out of their cars and stood at attention.
Two minutes of silence is not quite an appropriate term for what I experienced. The driver of every vehicle soulfully honked his horn. I am told that people will stop whereever they are, walking down the street or up a flight of stairs, and stand still for two minutes.
For most Turks, this is likely a sign of patriotism, a gesture of respect. For me, this was something more. It amazed me that the entire country participated in this act. To me, it was two minutes of peace, love, and understanding. It brought a tear to my eye.
It’s said that people see what they want to see. I believe in that. When I came to Turkey, I chose to write about my life here through rose-colored glasses. I write of its landscapes and people and how things are different and how they are the same. I could have been more harsh, saying that it is nothing like the U.S. It doesn’t have this or that. The people don’t do this or that. I could have written that Turkey is not as beautiful as my old home. But I decided at the beginning to see Turkey and all its wonders in a different light – a bright light.
Today, I saw Turkey at its brightest. For two minutes, I heard peace. I felt love. And I was understood.
“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.”
— Robert Fulghum