"In Search of Hope: A Story of Resilience and Perseverance through the aftermath of a tragedy"

I was hungrier than usual that day. My sleep was disturbed; maybe I got 3 or 4 hours of sleep, resisting my hunger. I gave in and woke up to make myself a sandwich in the middle of the day. I did not know the exact time, but it was around 4 a.m., and the neighbour was so calm that you could hear the owl’s humming. The weather was typical, with a gentle breeze carrying the dust across the deserted streets.

I heard dogs barking, it was not surprising; they did this every morning. I finished preparing my sandwich and as I was about to drink some water, and I heard them barking in a more aggressive way, as if they sensed some danger. I did not pay attention to them while heading back to my room until the glasses and kitchen utensils began to move. I became aware, I stopped for a while and waited for it to stop. 

It was one of those small earthquakes that come once in a while; we were used to them. The best thing to do was to stand still or drop down under a table until it stopped. Suddenly, I lost control over my body as the building shook. The dog barked so loud that my parents woke up and called out my name. At the same moment, I felt our building shaking, and looked across the room’s window. I saw an entire building collapse; I couldn’t tell if I was awake or sleeping. I could not move. I saw my little brother sleeping across my bed, unable to grab him, I screamed, calling “Mama” and “Dada.” I took a few steps because the shaking seemed to stop for a split second. I reached out to my brother and grabbed him, and my father was just across the door checking up on us. Within a flash minute, I was heading toward him. I stepped, and all I could remember was falling underneath the ground and screaming so loud while covering my brother’s head from the falling debris of the ceiling. 

The next hour, I did not know what happened; I remembered opening my eyes, seeing the thick dust in the air, as the once-sturdy building lays in ruins around us. I was trapped beneath the rubble and struggled to catch my breath. Panic set in when I realized the weight of the blocks and concrete above us was making it difficult to breathe. As my consciousness faded, I saw my father running toward us with mother, and we fell in vain. I tried to push against the blocks, to no avail. The crushing weight seemed to press down harder with every passing moment. My breathing became shallow and laboured as the dust clogged their noses and throats. The sound of my brother’s heartbeat thundered in my ears, drowning out all other noise.

Then, suddenly, all became silent. I lay motionless, unconscious, unable to move. I closed my eyes as if darkness enveloped my senses. When I heard some noise from outside, I opened my eyes again. I found it difficult to see as the flashlight was pointing at my eyes. A voice asked me, “Eísai kalá?“(Are you okay?) I did not understand what the man was saying, but I guessed he was asking me if I was alive. I nodded my head a “yes,” and the first thing I murmured was, “Küçük kardeşim nerede?” (Where is my little brother?). Another man replied, “He is safe.” I was taken away from them. I felt my legs stuck under a rock; one man pulled it away, and another grabbed me gently. I looked across my body and saw my arm in red. In my mind, I tried to convince myself that it was paint, but I did not recall having any paint at home. I was scared; I called mom and dad, and no one seemed to be familiar with my voice. I looked around; I was sure I had seen a building just across the street the previous day, but no, nothing was there. 

I got a flashback of the exact location back in my country; I remember living in my old house this same way when we moved because of the war. I remember our house being destroyed to the last rock; I was 7 years old, and I remembered seeing the same red paint like the one on my arm or on my dad’s shirt. I can’t believe I’m still alive; it was happening again, just 5 years later, the same trauma, the same scene, but this time mom and dad weren’t there. I was trying to cry, but my eyes were dry. I asked my rescuers, who were still holding me in their arms and walking towards a safe place: “

–   Does he exist?

He looked at me with a surprised sad face and asked back.  

–   Who?

I asked again.

–   Does Allah exist?

He looked at me with a teardrop on his cheeks. He pulled me down, near some other kids. While a nurse was checking my arm, I looked around in search of my little brother. I saw him, and I ran toward him while the nurse followed me. He looked like he did not understand what was happening. With a doll in his hands, he looked at me and smiled. I hugged him and told him: “We will be fine.” I glanced around, and all I could hope for was to see my parents and cry in their arms. I was not seeing any signs from them; I wanted to cry, but I was the older sister, and I had to be the stronger one. I stared at the sky, and many questions were crossing  my mind. Amidst the  chaos, my mind switched from a 12 year old kid’s to an adult’s. That is how my childhood vanished, and all I wanted was a sign of  “Allah”.