I knew I’d have a delayed reaction to the earthquake. Only now we’ve been home a couple of days can I process it properly.
We were holidaying in Bodrum, Turkey and it had been a slightly strange day: lots of fun, but tinged with a strange feeling I had of something being ‘not quite right’ that I definitely couldn’t put my finger on. My partner had a dodgy tummy and went to bed earlier than the children and I, who went to a snake show. My daughter had a snake wrapped around her neck and it gave her a lick on the face. Ugh! Her brother was queuing up for a bit of the same when the strangely attired snake man, dressed in full body armour, suddenly kissed the crowd goodnight and promptly disappeared. Bye then! My son was most upset at having missed out on a mildly terrifying experience.
Not to worry, kiddo, there was another right around the corner!
We came back to the room, trying to be quiet, and quickly fell asleep.
You know I already see the number 22 everywhere, well 31 had been making an appearance of late, so it was hardly a surprise then that the tremendous earthquake that shook us from our slumber on 20 July 2017 occurred at 22:31 UTC.
What WAS a huge surprise was the noise volume and the shocking way we were shaken awake less than 2 hours after going to sleep.
The indescribable noise: like thunder that appeared from below, but to the power of 20 when compared with a thunderstorm. Then the noise of the building – I think this was the biggest surprise. Seeing and feeling the building actually moving, and the clatter of bricks, stone, glass and metal, all banging together making the most horrendous racket imaginable.
My first thought was that a train had crashed into the building, but this was ridiculous – we were nowhere near a train line. Second thought, it must be an aeroplane! Yep, I went all 9/11 and interpreted the noise as a jet plane crash landing. Chris was shouting the whole time whilst I was mute. We were both instantly awake and terrified, looking at ourselves and each other involuntarily moving about the room, still in bed, half sitting up. It wasn’t until he said the words “it’s an earthquake” that I thought, “oh yes, he’s right”. He also said, “we should leave”. Again, spot on!
We got up but another rumble was upon us (I say rumble but you must imagine a bellowing cacophony louder than the human ear is meant to hear). We were moving back and forth in the bed, everything in the room was on the move, taking us with it.
The children! The children! They’d somehow managed to sleep through the first quake, but I was now up and telling them to get up and out of bed. Natasha declined the offer! She likes her bed, apparently even one that’s shaking her. I was like “You have to get up now! There’s been an earthquake! We have to leave!”
We each put on 1 item of clothing and promptly left the building. It was only the next day we realised how we had gone such a long way out of the building when in fact there was a fire only 2 doors away from our room. We spent a couple of hours sitting outside and I was stunned that the building was still standing. Cracks appeared in the paving outside and on the walls inside. More after shock rumbles appeared. Each time I was waiting for something more terrifying. It was so unsettling to feel so deeply at the mercy of the world and to feel so utterly small.
I felt, in those moments and the hours afterwards, that we humans were nothing. Mere ants crawling around the earth, ready for something far bigger to come and claim us at any time.
We slept outside on sun loungers. We chose the pool that seemed to be on the most solid ground and with the fewest buildings nearby, just in case they collapsed on us. I am still stunned and amazed that the buildings were still standing. That night there were many more rumbles and we got bitten without our insect repellent. Sleeping was difficult but we tried to make it seem like an adventure and that everything was fine – you do that for children knowing that later, you’ll process it and probably just freak out.
16 earthquakes followed within 3 days. We met a local man who said he’d sent his wife and children away to Ankara away from the earthquake. There was an acknowledgement that earthquakes make you shake – and it’s true. Two quakes were felt on the subsequent tea times and people flew into such a panic, dropping and smashing crockery all over and running out of the building. We followed them out the door, but afterwards realised that actually that minor quake was nothing compared with the first.
The children were shaking after these smaller quakes, and it’s exactly how I felt too. Shaken, in every sense of the word. All week long, each of us would suddenly report another tremor only for the rest of us to say “nope that wasn’t one”. I look this up and apparently it’s a common side effect of being in an earthquake where afterwards you feel “phantom quakes”, akin to motion sickness and imaginary repeat earthquakes. It’s quite disconcerting.
We became intensely interested in the structure of the buildings and how they are made to wobble and stay standing. How the glass in the restaurant windows stayed intact I don’t know!
Even the noise of the aeroplanes in the airport made me freak a little, as did the ridiculously turbulent flight home, as though we’d had enough shaking or sleeplessness!
I did go on holiday with the silly expectation of hoping to sleep well – the warmth, the relaxation, and being with my favourite people might help me to depart from my regular insomnia. Little did we expect an experience like this!
Is there anything salvageable from this? Anything to learn? The experience opened my eyes to the power and wonder of nature and was humbling in the extreme. We are also extremely lucky and grateful to live in a part of the world that is generally pretty much free from natural disasters.