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Selin Gökcesu: On Ankara


For Guernica, Selin Gökcesu writes about her hometown Ankara, the recent bombing there, and the abstract feelings of loss that come with grieving for a terrorist attack. See her full piece via Guernica, or the excerpt below.

It was Sunday, March 13, late afternoon in Ankara, midday in Brooklyn. The bomb went off right where you come out of the overpass, by the flower stands, only a few yards away from where I used to take the dolmuş to ODTÜ, my alma mater. It exploded right where I used to sit with my friend at dusk as she missed bus after bus. When the bomb exploded, I wasn’t there.

Two ODTÜ students were there, perhaps headed to the dolmuş stop. My friend’s brother-in-law, a doctor, tried to save one’s life and failed. A famous football player’s father was there—luckily mine had just arrived home and was watching a football game. My cousin’s teacher lost her husband. College students were there, people visiting Ankara, people heading home. All in all, thirty-seven dead, right at the overpass. When I found out about it, from a newsfeed update, the only thing I felt was an intense desire to go home.

The desire turned into an insatiable hunger for raw footage. For two days straight, I watched video after video of the explosion itself, broken glass carpeting the sidewalks, bloody people, charred benches, burned cars, a burning bus, crying people, eyewitness accounts, relatives searching for their missing relatives, families waiting at hospitals, protests, funerals, funerals, funerals. Sometimes I cried for something specific—I cried when I recognized the distinct cobblestone walkways of my college campus in a photograph showing the memorial held for two of the victims who were students there. Mostly, I cried out of unattached sorrow.

Crying for a bomb that takes out a familiar place and strange people is not like crying at a funeral, for a breakup, or a sad movie. The tears are less predictable and less explicable. I cried for the dead, for their youth, for their parents, for broken glass, for familiar cobblestone, but the whole time, I suspected that I was just crying for myself because someone bombed the backdrop of my life.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user Ankara’dan