Even though it’s been a month since two terrible earthquakes hit the south of Turkey, Havva Arslan, a mother of three, finally feels safe in her small but strong container home.
Arslan, her husband, and their three children were stuck under the rubble of their five-story apartment building for five days.
The fact that the whole family made it out alive is unusual in Nurdagi, where most buildings have collapsed or are set to be torn down.
The family just got out of the hospital two weeks ago, and now all five of them are trying to pick up the pieces of what they call their “previous life.”
They try to get back into their old routines slowly in their new, makeshift home behind a gas station.
“We had a lot of money. We had a car and two houses. We thanked God for everything. And now that all my kids are safe, we are thankful. “Now that my family is with me, I have nothing to worry about,” Havva said as she sat next to a wooden picnic table after breakfast with her family.
Havva and her husband, Hasan, lost 36 family members in the earthquake, and their pain is still fresh.
One of their relatives who is still alive is their grandmother Arslan. She lives next door in a container and has a broken foot.
People they know stop by to offer their condolences.
Hasan says that he will be ready to go back to work soon.
“Clients are once again calling. The governor sent a box to the town’s accountants, and the guild will send a computer and printer. “Then I’ll pick up where I left off,” says Hasan.
He points to a dusty metal safe that has papers that were saved from his office before it fell down.
Both sets of parents are glad that two of their kids, one in the fourth grade and the other in the eighth, can go back to school.
Havva says, “Kids need school,” and adds that the government is setting up a school in a nearby tent city. At first, kids will only go back to school two days a week.
“WE’RE ALL ALIVE”
Fatmagul, the oldest daughter, is 19 years old. She has started getting ready for the tests she will take to get into college in a few months.
“I wanted her to study, but I didn’t want her to do it until she felt she could,” Havva said.
“One day when I woke up and opened my eyes, I saw her studying at the table. She told her mother, “We have to start somewhere.”
When the earthquake happened, the parents and the three kids ran to each other and held on tight.
As the walls around them fell down, the floor below gave way, and the Arslan family fell one floor down. Seconds later, the four floors above them fell down as well.
They were stuck in a dark place with no food or water. As the hours turned into days, they had no idea how much time had passed.
After a while, everyone in the family, starting with the parents, started to see strange things.
“I was starving. I saw apples and oranges, but I couldn’t hold them together. Fatmagul said, “My mother was talking on a phone she didn’t have.
In the end, a rescue team that was trying to get through a crack heard them calling for help.
“I yelled, ‘My name is Fatmagul Arslan. “There are five of us here. I said, “We’re all still alive.”
Then came the moment of rescue: “Light came in, I heard a noise, and then I saw a man’s eyes,” Fatmagul said.
Nearly 46,000 people have died in Turkey because of the earthquakes, and another 6,000 have died in neighbouring Syria.