“My heart is bewildered, terror hath overwhelmed me; the twilight that I longed for hath been turned for me into trembling.” Isaiah 21:4 (The Israel Bible™)
Last time Ankara was the site of a terrorist bombing, the attack was targeting soldiers near government buildings. Civilians didn’t feel so threatened because the terrorists were angry at the military, not the civilians.
But this time was not the same. This time the bombing was near a central park at the middle of the city: a park that everyone passes through to access public transportation. It’s an area where I was planning to take my friend’s kids for an outing that very day because the weather was nice, although last minute I changed my mind. It’s a place where a close friend boarded a bus near the flower shops, and ten minutes later received a phone call from her husband frantically asking if she’s okay.
His concern and panic was more than understandable because a car bomb had just exploded after ramming into two buses right near where she had been.
The people who were killed in the attack were smart university students, academy students, just on their way home at 7:00 on a Sunday evening… yet they died such meaningless deaths.
I’ve heard of terror all my life on the news, but no matter how much it comes on the news, it never impacted me so personally as this time on March 13, 2016 at 7:00 in Kizilay Guven Park, Turkey.
To others it may sound like an exotic name that conjures up images of deserts and camels. To me, it’s the place I love to stroll through with a simit (Turkish bread) and a freshly squeezed orange juice. I just love everything from seeing dark bearded men in leather jackets, to women with colorful headscarves and long coats, young students talking and laughing on the streets, or old men in tweed jackets. This is Ankara, where people walk the streets with leisure and know how to enjoy a relaxing day drinking tea and eating sunflower seeds.
I’ll never forget how the street that I once walked almost everyday just to take a stroll or buy some fresh orange juice, to get to the subway or on a bus, is now filled with the scene of mercilessly shattered windows as a result of the blast, like some picture of a far away, war-torn country.
The young boys, whose faces I could recognize, who were selling Turkish street food right across from the site of the blast, and the old man who sold sweet corn on that very street: are they alive?
All the main malls: Ankamall, Cepa, Kentpark.. emptied yesterday and today until who knows when. The streets are empty, you overhear people saying they are afraid, they can’t sleep, they don’t want to die. Ambulance and police sirens go off all day long. I went to a nearby cafe today: although the music is on, people are wary, talking quietly and there is no laughter.
There are funerals and mourning for times when people pass away, but what about a city?
Seeing this just devastates my heart, but with all the confusion and the warnings of more, anger and frustrated finger pointings, there is not much time to properly mourn. But I think that inside, their hearts are grieving, although we may not realize it at the moment.
I think all of Turkey is crying in their hearts.
This is not the first time I’ve seen terror in the news, in Israel and many other countries in the Middle East and even places in the West such as New York and Paris. Oddly, no matter how much the news would put up numbers of people who died, it always somehow felt so far away.
But this time, it hit the very center of the city I live in, it hit the very center of my life.
I now realize more than ever that violence is not a way to get what you want. There are no glorious causes that justify committing violence against civilians as a means to bring justice.