Magda still believed that something was going to happen in Turkey that will require our presence, but we haven’t seen anything like it yet.
I started working at the beginning of August 1999. Dr Arseven and his partners were eager to get more practical and logistical progress and they felt that Carewell was stalling the progress. During July a big payment for work done by Dr Arseven and his partners was channeled through my personal account. I immediately transferred the amount to the account of dr. Arseven. The next morning my account showed a huge unauthorized overdraft amount. The cheque paid into my account was not honored by the bank and the payment was reversed leaving us without access to any funds in our account. This was the first time I felt that Carewell was perhaps struggling financially. The problem was rectified a few days later but left a huge question mark in my mind about the future of Carewell in Turkey.
The night of the 17th of August 1999 was a normal summer night. We went to bed but around 12:00pm Thea-Marie woke up and asked for water to drink. Magda got up and took care of Thea-Marie. She struggled to fall asleep again and she was just slumbering in when we heard the loud knock to our front door. She got up and went down to see who it was. She recognized the young woman as one of the residents in our apartment building. the lady was speaking incessantly moving her hands horizontally in front of her as to indicate some short of shaking. Magda could not understand the Turkish but from the hand movement, and the seriousness visible on the face of the lady, she made the assumption that there was an earthquake.
Magda ran back into the house and woke us up. We quickly dressed ourselves and then we ran down the stairs to the front of our building. We could see small groups of people gathered outside their apartment buildings. They were all worried and shared information with one another. We were completely out of the loop. We could not really understand what they were saying, but we knew something serious had happened in Istanbul and that everyone was worried that it may happen in Ankara too. We realized after a while that we were standing outside without our passports or my wallet, We took nothing of importance when we ran out. If something happened then in Ankara, we would have been in serious trouble!
When the day break we went back into our apartment. We had cable television and when we saw the scenes of the destruction around the sea of Marmara near Istanbul, we were shocked. It was a 7.7 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in the sea of Marmara. The tremor was felt in Ankara but there was no damage. Many towns and villages around the sea of Marmara was totally destroyed. The tremor lasted for 37 seconds, killing around 17,000 people and left more than 250,000 people homeless. In one town the doctors quarters and nurses home was build on reclaimed land next to the sea of Marmara. The land broke loose as a result of the tremor and the whole building was swallowed by the sea, No one survived.
The whole country were in shock. The damages and the number of people killed and missing were horrific. In the days to come the news was totally focused on the the aftermath of this natural disaster. It was clear that the government was struggling to deal with the magnitude of the damage to roads, buildings and the loss of lives. Rescue teams from all over the world were arriving and foreign aid was offered. This was not readily accepted because the Turks are a proud nation. Within a week, they succumbed to the pressure and opened the borders to allow foreign help.
In Ankara, the local Turkish churches were starting to mobilize search and rescue teams and funds were donated to the International Church of Ankara to support earthquake relief work and to support survivors of the disaster.
But we had a crises of our own to deal with. My bankcard got damaged and I was not able to withdraw money from any ATM. We only had one card and I spend long hours in calls with representatives of my bank to explain the situation. The only solution was to order another card. The bank however refused to courier the bank card to me in Turkey. It was against international banking regulations. We managed to give power of attorney to one of our support group in Halfway House congregation. They received the card and then couriered the card the us in Ankara. I had some money in my wallet and the food in the house and we were hoping that the card will arrive soon.