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Sunday, January 17, 2010

from Texas to Turkey to Haiti

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Special post script note: I want to sincerely apologize for posting incomplete information about Turkish rescuers in Haiti. After the news program seeing Turks in the rescue effort, I searched online, even at the Hurriyet Turkish newspaper, for information about a Turkish contingent. I found many references to the Armenian group, and since many Armenians live in Turkey, I came to an imperfect conclusion that this was the Turkish contingent. I was unable, unfortunately, to find anything at that time about the Turkish group. I should have been more thorough and clear about that process in the paragraph about it. I have nothing but respect for Turks, who clearly in the last decades have come to the aid of not only their own who have suffered, but to those in other countries as well. In this post I have conveyed a personal story that reminds me that the Haitian tragedy, while massive, is about individual suffering and individual aid.

Here is the Hurriyet article posted 6pm today, about Turkish rescuers and the generous ten tons of goods donated to Haiti. Clearly in 2010 our friends Cemal, Hassan, Dilber and Ali would have something different to say.

"In Turkey, she would die."

We looked over at Cemal (pronounced Jeh-mahl) in the blue TV light. Hassan, Dilber and Ali all nodded in agreement.

"If a child fell into a hole here, no one would try to rescue her. We don't have the technological resources, and besides, we would just consider it her fate."

I don't remember how far the emergency team was into the 58 hours spent rescuing 18-month-old Jessica McClure after she fell 22 feet into a well in 1987. She was just a few years younger than Lesley and Peter. We looked like lemurs in our Istanbul apartment staring at the television news footage of Midland, Texas workers at night under floodlights leaning over her far below, talking to her, passing food and water down the narrow hole. She was still a baby, crying, the only word she said was "Mommy." They drilled a rescue shaft next to the well and dug over to where she was. Even cavers came in to help.* I don't know how many worked on her rescue, I couldn't find the total. I'm guessing dozens, maybe a hundred, or hundreds. The whole community around Midland donated time, equipment, tens of thousands of dollars, food, diesel fuel, and more for the effort of saving one child.

Fast forward 22 years, 3 months. On the news Friday we watched a Turkish rescue team with a Haitian man trying to find his missing wife who was trapped under a broken cement building. They had been tapping, and she had been tapping back. But the last tap they heard was an hour before. The Turkish rescuers and the husband weren't going to leave until they removed all that cement rubble and found her. They knew from experience that it might not be too late, and they had to find out. In India, after the 2004 tsunami, those Turks had rescued a woman - alive - after 7 days. Today is the sixth day since the earthquake hit Haiti.

From what I could find, it seems that the Turks who were sent by air across Africa and the Atlantic to Haiti were 52 Armenians. At least 30 countries have sent rescue and relief teams.

A lot has changed in 22 years. And a lot hasn't.



18-month-old Jessica McClure




*NOTE: Scanned newspaper image from the Amarillo Daily News found at caver.net, on their
page devoted to Jessica's rescue.
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61 comments:

Don said...

So much has changed, and it is sure heart-warming to see so many giving and doing as much as they/we can to help the Haitians.

♥ Kathy said...

I'm glad so much has changed. I wish I could do something for the people of Haiti. I am praying a lot though.

margie said...

so much has changed. the poor people of haiti, so much has changed.

California Girl said...

I remember the Jessica McClure incident as if it were yesterday. We lived in Richmond, VA. and I was pregnant with our first child. The national focus was on the rescue. We couldn't get enough of it. Everyone hoped for a happy ending but nobody was quite sure.

The Haitian earthquake aftermath is horror on a massive scale, but the microcosmic experiences of each individual are worthy of our attention, our pain, our empathy. You tie your incidents together and they fit.

ds said...

So true, Ruth. Just this morning we heard a doctor describing how he had to amputate a girl's arm in order to free her from the rubble...can we ever do enough?
Love the delicate way you wove this. Thanks.

ellen abbott said...

Wonderful post. Such differences in culture/religion. In Turkey she would die because it was her fate.

Anonymous said...

Wow Ellen, your ignorance is unbelievable. I doubt your ability to really comprehend what you are reading. No that girl would not be left to die in Turkey. Turks are not known to give up hope. I doubt you would know but Turkey was hit very hard in the 90's by a major earthquake and Turks know well why they should not give up searching for survivors. Even today they pulled out 2 more female survivors from The Caribbean Shopping Mall. The same shopping mall other rescue crews have deemed hopeless and have left.

Furthermore, to correct a mistake on the article, the Turkish rescue force in Haiti is comprised of 34 workers and they are not Armenian.

Shari Sunday said...

I remember the Jessica McClure story. My son was small then, too. You were in Istanbul? I was a single mother in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I also remember a story about that time about a little missing boy who had never been found and they found his little cowboy boots at the bottom of a well many years later. My son had a pair of boots like the ones that were found. No matter who they are mothers and fathers and wives and husbands and even strangers literally move heaven and earth to reach the one who is lost. I think we all know it could be us or our own little child. The pain in Haiti breaks my heart. I pray the world can make a difference there even though nothing can make up for what has been suffered already.

Gwen Buchanan said...

I remember this event well... it was international...
yes just as is Haiti...

how much strength will it take? ..to bear the pain the Haitians have and must Endure...

Denyocan said...

"From what I could find, it seems that the Turks who were sent by air across Africa and the Atlantic to Haiti were 52 Armenians."


wow. and will you let us see the resource backing up this lie?

I just came across this blog and the christian-nazist lies you threw out in a single post are just disgusting.

and don`t worry no one will leave a child to die in a well in Turkey.

CottageGirl said...

Dearest Ruth,
it is so very heart-wrenching when the focus of the media is on ONE person in danger.
It is unimaginable to think that a whole nation is suffering right now and all we can do is watch and pray and perhaps send donations on their behalf.
Hopefully many lessons have been learned from the Katrina disaster that will be of benefit to the rescue efforts in Haiti.

CottageGirl said...

Oh ... one more thing ...
Love and tolerance and understanding ...
These are the things that bind us together.
On this, the eve of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, I try to understand angry words.

Sidney said...

I don't think the nationality really matters... what matters most is that some people have there heart at the right place and are prepared to go out of their comfort zone and decide to help...

Great inspiring stories here!

Ruth said...

Don, if something terrible happened to us like this, finding out how the world cares would be a healing thing. It is for me now, and I'm not even there.

Ruth said...

Keep praying, ♥ Kathy.

Ruth said...

I know Margie, life changes in a split second, and there's nothing you can do to take it back. How people respond to it is what matters.

Ruth said...

California Girl, to multiply Jessica's circumstances times 1 million, or even 500,000, or 100,000, it's too big to understand.

Ruth said...

Ellen, it's been over 20 years since we lived in Turkey, and I believe no one there would feel this way now. It stunned me at the time, but I sensed that it was true, based on what we had learned there. Now, as I've written in the post and in the post script, and thanks to what has been pointed out by Anonymous and Denyocan, today Turks are very much a part of the rescue efforts at home and abroad.

Ruth said...

Welcome to this salon, Anonymous. Are you Turkish? I call this a salon because of our time in Turkey, where for the first time in my life I sat with women in their salons and in mine - knitting, drinking çay, talking about everything. We had families over in the evening, and we visited families. It is a wonderful thing that we have lost in the U.S., to sit and talk with tea, coffee, cigarettes. I welcome you to my salon, Anonymous.

I do sincerely apologize for getting it wrong about the Turkish rescuers. Thank you for correcting me, it is a very important distinction. Today there are countless references to the rescues made by Turks in Haiti. What a tremendous effort coming together in that tiny, torn place.

Ruth said...

That's it, Shari, we have to make it personal, or it means nothing. Watching individual stories, and then seeing them on a mass scale, goes beyond what a mind or heart can hold. Long ago I decided that one-at-a-time makes a difference, regardless of what it's about. But it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Ruth said...

Gwen, humans keep surprising me. For good and for bad.

When we want to help, it's hard to be so distant, feeling helpless. In some way, being there and helping would feel better. If we could see one person relieved. But such constant disappointment, heartbreak, suffering weighs too much.

Ruth said...

Hello Denyocan, thank you for leaving your name. I have added a postscript, though it would surprise me if you come back to read it. I hope you will. I feel bad that I got it wrong, thank you for pointing it out.

I offer you a glass of çay, wish you would sit and talk. Pity I know nothing about you except from your angry words. And it makes me sad that I was the one who invoked them. I've never met more hospitable people than Turks in my life.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, you're so right, it's times of great trauma that can bring people together. Sadly it can be divisive too. I was appalled at things said by Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, things rightly lambasted in the media since. There are lots of things to get angry about, and those were two.

I understand anger over me getting it wrong, especially given Turkish history. It was an honest, not intentional, mistake. It was a good lesson for me in future posts to be more thorough and careful.

Thank you for your kind support.

Ruth said...

Sidney, thank you, I agree. Yet I also understand the anger somewhat, given the difficulties of the past.

Thankfully today if you google "Turkish rescuers Haiti" my post is well onto the third page, not the third hit. :)

Peter said...

Can we hope that the little Haitian boy will have a happy future like Jessica, obviously now married and a happy mother? When the horror is multiplied by tens of thousands, you somehow lose the individual feeling; however, all those victims, family and friends are also individuals!

But... of course, you already said the same thing, better, in your comments here!

gemma said...

We are prepared here in the US.
We have police and fire crews, hospital triage,emergency plans in place. Even many buildings are earthquake ready. We need to help and to teach those less fortunate.

Susan said...

Ruthie, I know how those angry words must have hurt you...you who are kind and generous to a fault. I hope they come back to read your apology and correction.

It is wonderful that the Turkish people now have the resources to be able to send a rescue team and all those desperately needed supplies.

My heart goes out to the families of the ones whose lives have been lost. Each one an indvidual to them.

Nancy said...

Aren't we lucky that we live in a place that would not leave a baby in a well? Maybe it was the example needed for all of these dedicated teams from all over the world to converge right when they were needed, and to not give up on something seeming impossible. Great post, Ruth, thank you.

photowannabe said...

Human tragedy. Its so hard to comprehend. I pray for more compassion for each of us. We must help alliviate the suffering in anyway we can.

Claudia said...

Ruth, I can imagine how upset you must have felt after reading the angry words left by Anonymous and Denyocan. I can only admire and praise the immense sense and sensibility of your response.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ruth,

Reading your blog makes me believe that you re a nice, genuine person. I wouldn't mind Denyocan and Anonymous, I'm sure theirs was a one-off blast. Yes, we don't leave anybody in wells, and yes, we still remember how US helped us out during our 1999 earthquakes. And for Armenians becoming part of the team, that would have been a nice composition really. And it might happen sooner than many of us might think. Who would have thought Greeks and Turks saving one another's lives at the 1999 earthquakes that hit Turkey and Greece one after the other?

Regards,

Barkin K.

Shattered said...

Being a native Texan, I remember baby Jessica and that whole rescue effort. I remember being scared for her, myself a child, while watching the events on TV. And how full circle we have gone as I just had to explain to my own daughter what happened to all the poor Haitian children we keep seeing on TV. I focused on the help they were getting and that seemed to brighten her own little spirits...

Loring Wirbel said...

Ruth, I think the attention to one girl in a well was more a reflection of the US media turning to personal storytelling before the rest of the world did. Now, media just about anywhere would obsess over stories of drawn-out, dramatic rescues - look at the way they handled the five-shopping center in Haiti with the unexpected survivors.

As for Denyocan and Anonymous 1, I would echo what Anonymous 2 had to say, and add that I have seen some very disgusting Turkish nationalist trolls on various Internet sites -- the type that would call for the death of people that made fun of Kemal Ataturk. I have no patience for nationalists of any stripe, nor for those who would hold a person, sacred being, or hero as being above satire. Nationalist goons are everywhere, in our country, in Turkey, in China, everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Is this article a joke? Why would she die in Turkey? And why would the Turkish rescue workes be Armenians? What a pile of rubbish. I cant believe this blog wanna be piece of crap hits second on google search. I would say things much flamer than this but leave it here.

Renee said...

Things can be so scary.

xoxo

Ruth said...

Hello Peter, we watched video on the news last night of a woman being pulled alive out of the rubble. It was extraordinary watching her being driven away, after she had lived six days buried in darkness, somehow believing she would survive. Human Life is a powerful thing, and we do anything we can to preserve it.

Ruth said...

True, Gemma, but even we failed New Orleans miserably.

Susan said...

In my opinion, people who post flaming comments anonymously are cowards. Ignore them Ruthie.

Ruth said...

Thank you, dear Susie, you're a sensitive friend. Yeah, it does make me sad when strangers react this way in any situation, when there was no bad intent, and frankly I think my point got missed. After all, the whole point of the post is that time has changed the circumstances in Turkey so that they can help others! They help out of their own suffering.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Nancy. I'm glad to see all these different countries represented too. But I had no clue it might become a competition, as it did here. I never dreamed of this reaction.

Ruth said...

Right, Sue. The thing is, there is a lot of suffering all the time. This one is intense to the extreme all at once, in a place where suffering was already the norm.

Ruth said...

Thank you for that, sweet Claudia. Yes, I was upset. To offend anyone, let alone of the nationality I've lived among and loved, was hard. But I am glad for it actually, for how it shakes me up and makes me think about who I am in a world of others of all kinds.

Ruth said...

Thank you, dear Barkin, for your healing comment. How wonderful that Greeks and Turks were able to climb over their differences as they helped each other.

The thing is, what I wrote about my experience in 1987 is true. It may not be true now, thank god. But it was true then. And I wonder if any young Turks remember or know how far Turkey has come in these decades. I refuse to deny that there was definitely work to be done in this regard. I realize it is not pleasant to recognize one's country's shortcomings. Believe me, I have been learning to live with that these many years as an American citizen.

Ruth said...

Oh it's hard, Jennifer, when our kids have to face pain. You hope it doesn't damage them, you keep talking. It's the world, it's all we can do - and the sooner the better, if you ask me. I see a lot of college students who I think have been over-protected from the world. I don't think their parents did them any favors, yet they thought they were being the ultimate parents. Odd.

Bella Rum said...

This is a wonderful post, Ruthie. I thank you for posting it and for the correction. My father always says, "The only person who never makes a mistake is the person who does nothing." It's the way we handle it that counts and you handled it gracefully and squarely. In it's whole - a great post.
Bella

Ruth said...

Loring, personal story telling does bring it home, and build ratings. I am one who has little interest in the Olympics unless I hear the individual stories of hard fought battles. What we'll remember from this earthquake besides its magnitude is the visuals like we saw last night of a woman pulled out of the rubble before our eyes. She broke into singing a hymn within seconds of lying on the backboard.

Ruth said...

Hi Anonymous, cuppa tea? Thank you for saving some of your flame.

Ruth said...

Renee, my thoughts are with you.

I know you're holding your mom close.

love.

Ruth said...

Susie, I'm fine, I think I did what I can do. Thank you.

Renee said...

Yes Ruth spending time with your Dad. Yes spending time......

xoxo

Ruth said...

Thank you so much, Bella. All in all, I feel fine about this after the hubbub. I've developed a bit of a thicker skin. I don't feel too bad about anything I wrote, but I will do better next time. I did learn once again that to react in such anger to a stranger (like road rage) isn't the best way to communicate a point. Such is life.

Ruth said...

It's what you have now, Renee, and all those tremendous memories - what a woman she is!

Renee said...

Ruth my very good friend Jill died two years ago of lung cancer and she never ever smoked or was around smokers.

What she hated most was how people assumed she smoked and that it was her fault she had lung cancer.

People could be so insensitive.

xoxox

Oliag said...

I am reading this after the "hubbub" and as usual I have learned much not only through your post but through the comments...and I have read your blog long enough to know of your love of Turkey and it's people...

What I find important is that this tragedy brought people of all nations together to assist...and I greatly admire those who can do it. As a retired nurse my first impulse was to find a way to get there to help in some small way....but I don't really have the courage to do that so I have sent money to those that will...

Vagabonde said...

I have read your post and all the comments with interest. I am sorry about the Turkish sensitiveness as I know by reading your blog how much you like Turkey and its citizens. CNN is constantly showing how much the USA is helping in Haiti but does not show as well what other countries are doing. For example Turkey has offered $1 million and 50 tons of aid material to Haiti so far. They have sent four relief groups as well as tents, blankets, food and a mobile hospital. A Humanitarian aid agency in Turkey has announced that they will be looking after 700 Haitian orphans. Armenians emergency teams are also in Haiti. The Fund for Armenian Relief, a group with headquarters in New York and offices in Yerevan, is also organizing help and receiving contributions from the Armenian diaspora. So far I believe more than 30 countries are coming to the help of Haitians. I think all nations feel a sense of solidarity with poor Haiti which has suffered through so much already. Individuals are contributing enormously, unknown people as well as celebrities. Tiger Wood gave $3 million for example. Several world famous tennis players held an exhibition game with the $500,000 profit going to Haitian aid. Larry King had a special and raised quite a large amount. Charles Aznavour (French Armenian) and Youssou N’Dour from Senegal cooperated on a special video for Haiti. The Armenian Relief Society has donated as well as the Turkish Red Crescent. What I’d like to say is that everyone is giving and in this country most people are interested in what the USA is doing, but that does not mean that the efforts of the rest of the world are not appreciated and to mention one country is not to slight another – everyone is coming together to help.

Ruth said...

Renee, sometimes people's ignorance drives their existence.

Ruth said...

Oliag, it boosts my spirit to watch as the world comes together after this tragedy. What comes to light, though, just like after Katrina, is how terrible the suffering was even before the cataclysm. I hate that it takes a jolt like this to wake us up. I wonder how Haiti can be built into a stable country. Did you know that the unemployment rate before the quake was 70%?

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, thank you for pointing out so many efforts.

It's true that the news media in the U.S. focus on the U.S., always. It has always bothered me too. Like when a plane goes down, they say how many American citizens were on board. Or in the Olympics, the main networks report the American medal results. Growing up in this environment, I never ever understood it, and it made me angry. It has just fed our ethnocentric isolationism. I agree completely that we should focus on the rest of the world along with our own interests. Then our own interests will be the rest of the world.

Deborah said...

Thanks for this uncommon, poignant persepctive, Ruth.

Ruth said...

Thanks for that, Deborah. It suddenly came to mind when we saw the Turkish rescuers, such a powerful change in a short span of time.

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