Yesterday, a suicide bomber attacked the American Embassy in Ankara. He killed one of his own people, a Turkish citizen who worked as a guard. What the fuck?! The man simply went to work one day and died because of some a-hole’s radical political views. The man lost his life, because he needed to feed his family, because he went to work.
Another Turk was critically injured. Until recently, she was a journalist for a local TV news channel. Today I learned that I recently met her mother. Her mother is a friend of a friend, and part of a new member of a group I belong to.
What is super crazy to me is the nonchalant attitude of many here. Bombs are par for the course here. They happen.
At 2 years old, I learned a valuable life lesson. People die. We are not safe anywhere. We walk out of our homes and get hit by cars.
Now I know, we are still not safe. Gun fire is killing people from my country at astonishing rates. Accidents. Fires. All around the world. Many of which are easily prevented with a little care, a little time, a little money.
But bombs. Drones. Terrorist attacks?! 911 scared Americans. A terrorist attack on American soil. A great number of people killed. Since that day, Americans really knew the meaning of terrorism. I remember a few weeks later, when the planes were back to their regular routes, I would shudder in fear when one flew overhead.
But since that time, I have repeatedly suggested one thing. Knowing that terrorism happens every where and that was tragicthat so many were killed at once, was that attack more important than an attack where only a few are killed? Not to me. It is not.
Yesterday, Turkey lost one of its citizens in a senseless way. The attack may have been on the U.S., but the loss should have been felt by Turkey too. I wish that more of them would stand up and say a little more than “Gecmis Olsun”.
My home is about the length of 3 football fields from that Embassy gate. I was scared. I was scared for the Turkish friend that lives just across the street from that gate. I was scared for the American and Turkish citizens that work there and for the visitors to the Embassy. I was scared for the passers-by.
I don’t understand that I only got two calls and messages from Turkish friends and none from family. My German family called before I even knew the details of what happened.
I don’t understand that when I called Turkish friends and family, they didn’t show as much concern as when they heard that my arthritis was acting up.
Therefore, I am going to take some time away from this blog. I am going to take some time to think. The Turks I know are generally a very lovely and warm people. But they have a very different sense of what is important to them than I do. So I am going to take a break. I need to figure out why I am here.
Thanks for reading for the blog. Once this feeling passes, I may be back. In the mean time, take good care of yourselves.
“I don’t understand that I only got two calls and messages from Turkish friends and none from family.”
It started as a nice article about differing views. Yes, some people are more ‘experienced’ with terrorist acts than Americans (although I’d count armed loons running into schools at a pretty similar level of awfulness). But turned a bit at that point. It matters more because it was so close to you? And no-one called you up to ask how you are? Boo-hoo.
“I don’t understand that when I called Turkish friends and family, they didn’t show as much concern as when they heard that my arthritis was acting up.”
That’s because that was something happening to you, therefore relevant to their lives because they like you. Someone being killed is pretty bad. But it’s someone they never met. At a place they never went (or probably will ever go).
It’s a cliched, old, fairly lame thing to say. But, nevertheless. If you let this stuff totally ruin your life, “the terrorists win”.
And let me add, Tim, that if something happened like this in your neighborhood, or at a place where I thought you might be, yeah, I would call to make sure you were ok. I wouldn’t just assume that you didn’t happen to be walking by at the time. So yeah, fuck you.
I shouldn’t have posted that message. I apologise.
Thank you for the apology. I apologize for my response as well. I was in a very bad mood. I could have written the post better.
Sorry to hear you may be stepping away. I understand though. I got more sympathy from friends and family overseas then I have recieved from people I know over here.
It’s a strange thing Stacey, isn’t it. Best to you.
Good Luck Terri to both you and your husband. When I saw this on the news I immediately thought of you guys there. These “people” are everywhere in one way shape or form. Currently in the USA there is a jackass holding a 5 year old boy hostage in an underground bunker. The poor bus driver making 10 bucks an hour died while trying to keep the children safe on the school bus where the boy was abducted from.
Thanks Mike. I know, they are everywhere. It unbelievable what is happening there right now. We are praying that it ends soon and the boy will be safely back with his family.
I actually had all of my Turkish friends calling and texting and emailing to ask about my safety and express their condolences over such a horrible and senseless act. People who don’t even know me very well but know I am American have likewise expressed sympathy. Many are incredibly surprised that I respond with “başınız sağolsun” when they say “geçmiş olsun”, but they also have been very touched that I view it as a loss and a tragedy to us all and not just as an attack on the American community.
Your blog will be missed during your time away, but I hope that you find peace and your faith in friends, family, and strangers alike is restored. And I know it’s frustrating to hear, but because there are no good words to comfort any of us in times like these, but geçmiş olsun.
Thanks for writing. I am happy to hear you had a different experience. I guess I am just a bit thrown by it all. I was at another Embassy yesterday morning and they had some things going on that made me a little uncomfortable. That was followed by a taxi ride that made me uncomfortable. And then this. I guess I just needed some hugs, instead of the “boo hoos”.
I can definitely understand that. I’ve had many days, with less horrible events, that leave me feeling that way around here! If you need some solace there are plenty of us around to be homesick with and give hugs!
As Brits and Americans I think we feel we are in control of our lives ( whether this is true, I’m not so sure) so when a catastrophic event happens on our doorstep we are are rocked to our core. (This happened to me while holidaying on Marmara Island during the 1999 Marmara Earthquake. ) From my observations over the years, Turks don’t feel that that are in control of their destiny, either down to divine will or the government of the day, so they only sweat the things they feel they can control. There is nothing they can actively do to avoid being blown up by a suicide bomber, but they can improve their ( or your) arthritis so that is what they will concentrate on. You sound as if you are suffering from shock – do look after yourself and I look forward to your next post.
I completely agree with you. There is a completely different feel of what can be controlled and what we can’t. I actually had conversations with a few Turks today who basically said the same thing, throwing up their hands and saying this is the way it is here. It’s not that they were agreeing with it. But they have accepted it. I understand that. But it’s a very different thing to get used to, isn’t it? The one thing that really bothered me, and I guess I didn’t make myself clear or I wouldn’t be getting some of the comments that are here and on my FB page, is that there was no concern for whether I happened to be walking by there at the time or not. I mean, it wasn’t just that they didn’t check to see if I am ok, they didn’t check to see that I am alive! I walk by there all of the time.
That’s a good point. Made me remember the dolmuş drivers, how they drive so recklessly without fastening their seat belt. Instead, they write maşallah on the back of the vehicle so that God will protect them. It’s not just about taking control though, it’s also about feeling responsible.
Interesting you should say that Petra. I was going to say something about the driving in my comment and then I removed it. But it is the same theory, in my point of view, of how one can be so kind and loving at one moment, and then be completely reckless driving, and yelling at those who are slowing them down by obeying traffic laws. I sometimes think they feel more in control behind the wheel.
I am an American (living in America currently), but I lived in Ankara and have an adopted family there that I am very close to. When I heard yesterday what was happening, I panicked, I made sure my family there was safe. I was glued to the internet for updates and I was saddened by the loss of life and concerned about what this means for the safety of those I love and a city and country I care for very deeply.
I guess this is my way of saying, I understand how you’re feeling right now.
Thank you Robin. I hope all of your friends and family are safe, here and everywhere. I love Turkey too.
About driving… Yes, it’s so strange for me, too. The day of the explosion I was crossing the road at Karum on my way home from work. A car was coming with full speed.. What did he do when he saw me? Pushing the brake? Pulling to right a little bit so that both he and I can comfortably pass? Oh no… He honked on me! I almost flipped him.. But when the same people are face to face, they are just too warm and kind.
Anyways, I just started to read your blog, so hope you will change your mind and come back soon. Take care.
Thank you Petra.
Clearly, this is a tough time for you and my heart goes out to you as I hear your distress in your writing. I can in some ways relate to what you say vis-a-vis discussions with my Turkish husband about how he felt about this incident (his response – blase, normal, somewhat blank).
And as you and others point out, people from the U.S. are not as used to this type of thing – and we are on a learning curve since 9/11 – and the Turks are way, way ahead of us having lived through so many coup d’etats, bombings, etc.
I think the nut of this type of Turkish response comes down to what you allude to – people are much more used to this. As a therapist, what I have to say is, when people are inundated with horrible things such as this (which you and I know are fairly common in Turkey), you enter into a denial mode – or a “this is normal” mode. I think this is what’s going on. There is such a culture of “tough” out there both in Turkey and in the U.S. regarding stolid, somewhat cold-feeling responses in the face of tragedy such as this…it is in many ways a productive response for coping with semi-constant possibilities for secondary (or primary) trauma.
My sense is that this is one of those more major cross-cultural crisis-realization moments that happen to all of us living abroad and/or in a cross-cultural relationship – there is a mental grinding of the wheels in the brain about “what the heck is this, who am I, who are they,” but my advice to you is to try to breathe and slow down in your response so that you perhaps don’t offend those you love. Try to give yourself some space as you figure it out – and perhaps work on putting yourself more into the shoes of the family and especially find ways to let them know how you feel and what you might need from them in the way of support (or at least from your husband or Turkish women friends that you have written about). In many ways, the caring of the relatives on your arthritis is a way to normalize what is a really scary thing – even if that in itself is not mentioned.
Wishing you all the best in your journey on this one.
Thank you Liz. I appreciate your concern and advice.
I miss you Aunt. I’m happy you are okay and outraged that these things happen. I’ll never understand why people do these things. It’s scary and senseless. It makes me wonder if anywhere is safe for travel, but that’s probably what they want. To make people afraid of them.
Miss you too Sweetie.
Turkey is still a safe place for travel. We still go to NYC. And I hope people will continue to travel to Ankara.
Terrorist attacks or the mass massacre of people (in schools, cinemas) are violent and unexpected. That grief people experience is the same. Turks are used to terrorist acts sounds shallow. Deep grief can be silent. That you were not passing by at that moment but that girl was visiting the Ambassador points to what we can and cannot control in life. Working to end violence is where the attempt to control may have some effect.