On September 20th, a bomb went off in the neighborhood of Kizilay, about a 10-15 minute walk from my home. I was walking down a street in my neighborhood at the time. I saw the big cloud of smoke, and thought nothing of it. I didn’t hear anything. Moments later, a good friend called to inform me of what happened and to check on my whereabouts.
I immediately contacted my former neighbor, who often works in Kizilay. Sure enough, she had been lucky to escape the bomb, having just left that area. I also called my new neighbor. She was actually in Kizilay, not near the bomb location, but was having difficulty getting out of the area.
News reports varied throughout the day and of course, information in English was limited. My understanding is that a man bought a used car without the proper paperwork. The dealer had actually bought the car from its prior owner without the paperwork and then resold it. Apparently the buyer also had a bogus driver’s license. (How these things can happen here in Turkey is beyond me – but I don’t think it’s so rare.)
The new owner then parked the car on a street within blocks of Parliament. He was stopped by a parking attendant (they don’t use parking meters here) who asked for payment. The driver told the attendant that he was in a hurry, and gave him his keys instead. The bomb in the car went off leaving 3 dead and many injured.
A German cousin was visiting me at the time. She immediately contacted family to let them know we were safe. Only one American friend contacted me having read it in the news. The Germans are generally much more focused on international news than Americans are. Regardless, I sent messages to my friends and family letting them know we were safe. Sadly, the bomb did interrupt the end of my cousin’s visit a bit – as we forewent our plans for another shopping trip to Kizilay.
I live in a neighborhood surrounded by Embassies. Germany is directly behind me. The U.S. and the French Embassies flank it. In a way, it used to make me feel secure, because most incidents in Turkey are rather small. One has to have “big balls” to mess with an Embassy. But as I have watched the events occurring in Libya recently, I know that my feeling of safety is a bit delusional.
Yesterday I received a call informing me that one of the local Embassies received warning that 6 bombs were to go off in Ankara last night. I assume there was not much information on it, because the Embassy did not make the information public. The word slowly spread anyway.
I contacted a few friends and encouraged them to stay away from Kizilay, malls, and big gatherings. Shortly after receiving the call, I heard an announcement coming from the streets. I couldn’t understand it. But I did see the vehicle that was delivering the message. A white van with dark windows. A speaker on the side-view mirror. A creepy-looking man hung out the back doors. And across those doors, painted in big black letters, in English, I read the word, “Danger.”
Now I was truly on edge.
My husband came home directly after work and we proceeded with our normal routine. At around 8pm, we heard a huge blast, followed by a lot of noise. Bright white lights were flashing in the streets. My husband pulled me back from the windows. We withdrew into the middle of the house, close to the front door in case we needed to exit. I could hear the cries of children coming from the building next to us.
My first thought was that multiple Embassies had been bombed. I was shaking. My husband finally said that it might be fireworks. But I was sure it wasn’t. Turks don’t do such grand displays of fireworks as we do in the States. They are usually small-scale, one here, one there – and for weddings.
After what seemed like an eternity, I heard voices from the kitchen balcony. I made my way to the door and could see the reflection of fireworks in neighboring windows.
Germany! It was Germany’s Unity Day. They set off fireworks at their Embassy. It never occurred to me since I knew that there Oktoberfest celebration wasn’t scheduled for another 2 weeks.
I love fireworks. In Philadelphia, I spent many hours lying on the banks of the Schuylkill River directly under the July 4th displays. I even bought a house where I could see them from the third floor window. But this?!
Not to mention the fact that I can count the times it has rained this summer on one hand. And I am using the word “rain” generously. It hasn’t really even drizzled. While houses may not be made of wood, there are many very dry trees in the neighborhood!
I want to say çok ayıp to both the German Embassy and the Embassy that received the warning. You scared the pants off of me! Don’t you communicate with each other?!! I do, however, always try to see things from all sides. I realize that the good old U.S.of A. would have a major difficulty in cancelling a fireworks display without more serious information of bomb threat. Still . . . I think someone owes me an apology.
I know this can happen anywhere. But it almost seems too “commonplace” here for me. On September 20th, I found myself accepting this as “the norm.” It is not. Better communication is needed. I wish that Turkey would stop wasting time with false security at every single mall and start putting your people to work!