Nuri Eski awoke with a start as a roaring sound rang in his ears and the ground trembled and shook. He hung onto the sides of his cot and screamed in terror as the tent walls buckled.
The floor swayed back and forth for what seemed an eternity. He heard his clothes chest topple over with a crash. With a final sickening jerk, the earthquake ended. He lay in utter darkness. His heart pounded and his body was drenched with sweat. Nuri suddenly felt very cold in the pre-dawn hours so he wrapped himself tightly in his blanket and curled into a fetal position.
Although he had been through quite a few earthquakes in his fourteen years of life, they’d never failed to cause him great fear and sadness. His mother had died in the great earthquake of 1999 while visiting her sister in Izmit. The entire apartment building had collapsed. Rescuers found her body and those of her sister’s family three days later. Nuri missed her so much. He placed his hands over his heart in an effort to quell the pain that he felt. He cried out with despair as hot tears rolled down his face. Then Nuri thought of Musti, his donkey. He got out of bed, located his flashlight and switched it on. Placing it on the table, he used the light beam to put on his shirt, pants, and tennis shoes. He slipped on his Seattle Mariners jacket and baseball hat. Next he grabbed his canteen and ran out of his tent. Nuri quickly walked down to the spot where he’d tied up Musti for the night. His donkey was gone and the rope hung limply against the post. “He must have panicked during the quake and run off”, Nuri thought. “I’ve got to find him”.
Mohammed Eski shouted out loud as the earthquake struck. As he gripped his blanket, memories of his wife, Ermine, engulfed him. He pictured her sweet face. The quake that had taken her life had been one of the strongest in Turkey’s history. The ground continued to move violently beneath him and he felt sick to his stomach. Then the shaking ceased and Mohammed cautiously got out of his cot. He found his desk in the darkness, righted the fluorescent lantern, and turned it on. He dressed and walked rapidly to his son’s tent. Holding the lantern up he yelled out Nuri’s name. No response. Great fear gripped him when he saw that the back wall of the tent had collapsed. Mohammed entered Nuri’s tent and searched it thoroughly. To his great relief he found it empty. “But where is he”? he asked himself. He turned and walked back outside. The camp was full of running figures. Dr. James Rogers approached him.
“Have you seen Nuri?”
“No, I haven’t” answered James.
Mohammed was frantic. Mehmet, the cook, ran by and he blocked his way. “Stop! Have you seen my son anywhere?”
“No, but I’ll help you look for him.” “Me, too,” said James.
Together they walked the length of the camp calling Nuri’s name. There was no sign of him. James wife, Helena, joined them and suggested that they drive around the perimeter of the camp. The sun was just beginning to rise behind Mount Ararat.