Submitted April 27, 2010

Inside the town was total destruction

In the summer of 1999, a small town called Golcuk was shaken by a massive earthquake in north-western Turkey. According to the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute in Istanbul, the magnitude of the quake was around 7.6 and it was just enough to destroy the whole town and other nearby places. Soon enough, help from other countries just flew there for one big purpose, "saving lives." Nowadays wherever an earthquake strikes, other countries are ready to send help. That is really something that, as human beings, we should be proud of.

When the earthquake struck, I was living in my hometown of Ankara, capital of the Turkey. Despite the 220 mile distance between the two locations, we still were able to feel the shakes. Later on, I heard from the news, people jumped from their windows because they were scared to death, even though their building was not collapsing. But overall, the damage in my town was just a few minor cracks on some cheaply-built buildings.

I had had a chance to visit Golcuk a couple times when I was a kid. My uncle who lives in Germany has a summer house there, and every summer they stay in Golcuk for their yearly vacation. After the quake struck, we couldn't contact to them, so we didn't know if they were in Golcuk or in Germay during the strike. Our unsuccessful calling attempts worried us, and the only thing we wanted to hear was that they were ok. Without wasting anymore time, my brother, my sister's husband, and I decided to drive there to check on them by ourselves.

When we were driving, the damage of the earthquake started to show itself right away. Big, wide, tall trees were laying down on the side of the road, as if one giant came and pulled them from their roots. Getting closer to Golcuk, the view and impact of the earthquake was getting worse. I never will forget that devastation when I became a witness of this natural disaster. Inside the town was total destruction, as I remembered and compared my childhood memories with what I witnessing. Originally, there was a big wide boulevard that welcomed visitors but that street wasn't there anymore. It wasn't easy to figure it out the streets among the ruins. A heavy smell was floating on the air and hot summer temperature was making me hardly able to breathe. We were moving slowly over the top of concrete pilings. It would be easy to sprain one's ankle when trying to walk like that. The rescue teams were still pulling out dead bodies but everyone was still hoping to find more survivors. It amazed me how such a force would be able to push down the concrete buildings, pull down the huge trees, and cause this devastation. The strangest thing I ever saw was a huge dump truck rearing up like a wild horse under a collapsed balcony. Finally, we were able to find my uncle's apartment and thank God, it was still standing, but nobody was there. Later on we found that they hadn't visited Golcuk that year yet. What luck!

Recently, we have heard on the news about the Haiti and Chile earthquakes. These are natural disasters and there is no way to avoid it. Especially as earthquakes never give a warning in advance; they just strike mercilessly in the middle of the night when people are asleep in their beds. But we can prepare ourselves to decrease the effects and provide supplies when we need it. I recently took a 20-hour Community Emergency Response Team course from the Miami-Dade Emergency Management Agency. This course is offered to the community for no charge to those who wish to take it. It was well organized and taught me many things about how to be prepared for catastrophic events. This is just one step to get ready. Also during my bachelor's degree, I specialized in outdoor sports and had classes such as camping, orienteering, mountaineering and first aid. In addition, the knowledge I gained from scuba diving and emergency first response instructor courses taken years ago makes me more confident and less vulnerable in case of a catastrophic event. We cannot stop disasters but we can prepare ourselves for their consequences. What I saw in Golcuk and watched on the television about the recent earthquakes is that anyone around the world can unite for one cause: HELPING OTHERS.

- Burak Bekcan of Floridia

< Prev Earthquake Survival Story 

Have a Survival Story?

Help others learn from your experience. If you’ve been in a survival situation that would fit in with our site, please contact us. In appreciation, if we include your survival story, we’ll send you a FREE t-shirt!