About 4:30 a.m. on February 06 in the country of Georgia Peg and I were awakened by a strange squeaking/creaking sound as if a giant was rolling around on bare bed springs. The sound appeared to come from above us and all around us. We checked through our small apartment and even ventured out on our 17th floor open air balcony and into the indoor hallway.
Peg advised we should exit our apartment but I said, “max nix, let’s go back to sleep; it is probably just a neighbor moving furniture.” These two reactions pretty much sum up how Peg and I address most situations. It turned out it was a neighbor, but the neighbor was the neighboring country of Turkey that was dealing with another kind of giant, giant 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes. Our apartment in Batumi, Georgia is only 12 miles from the Turkish border and as it turns out, a little less that 400 miles from the epicenter of the quakes.
When we turned on CNN at 7:00 a.m. we learned about the devastation caused by Mother Nature. As we had just spent a week in Istanbul, Turkey the middle of January we were anxious about how the people of Turkey and its bordering countries, Georgia and Syria, had fared. Georgia came through unscathed, but Turkey and Syria have lost over 16,000 people to death and many more thousands to injuries, loss of homes, water, food, power and shelter from the bitter cold.
The large Radisson Hotel building across the street from our apartment building had some internal shaking and furniture movement but our only effects, as far as we know, were the sounds caused by the barely swaying internal girders. We did have friends in other parts of our city who felt strong tremors and swaying structures. One of our friends told us she wanted to run out of her 10th floor apartment with her 3 year old daughter, but her husband said, no, he was going back to sleep, besides, it was cold outside. I guess the differing reactions Peg and I had to the quivering earth may be universal for wives versus husbands.
We were gratified that several friends and family members were so concerned about us we received emails and messages. They know our six-month mission to work with Georgian judges will soon come to an end and they want us to be safely home. As for us, we are beginning to feel our tour among our new friends, “getting short”. Of course, some folks reacted just as I did, that is, no reaction.
As we watched the relief and recovery efforts on TV we couldn’t help feeling as though we had been shot at and missed. Unfortunately, thousands of our fellow human beings were not so lucky. The videos are hard to look at and the feelings they raise are visceral. The entire catastrophic tragedy is summed up for me with one image, a father sitting in shocked disbelief, haunted by his inability to remove his young daughter from her tomb beneath huge slabs of concrete. He was just able to grasp part of her arm she managed to slip through a crack. The father held her hand as her life ebbed from her. He undoubtedly will always fault himself for being unable to do the impossible.