San Francisco Chronicle

Lake Merritt vigil honors quake victims

- By Joel Umanzor Reach Joel Umanzor: joel.

As Oakland resident Cigdem Cogur held her Turkish flag around her body, she fought back tears thinking of her family and those she grew up with in the city of Antakya.

“I haven’t been able to sleep or eat because it is so hard when you think about those who have lost their lives,” said Cogur. “It puts this ball in your throat where you can’t speak. I have an aunt where the city is and friends from high school and middle school. Everyone has had to move and the city is unpredicta­ble.”

Cogur and others held white and red roses and candles Tuesday evening during a Valentine’s vigil and silent march in Oakland from Snow Park to the amphitheat­er at Lake Merritt to honor those who died in last week’s earthquake­s in Turkey and Syria. Organizers also created an altar in honor of the dead.

The event was organized by Turkish transgener­ational trauma and healing practition­er Nermin Soyalp and Lebanese psychother­apist Kholoud Nasser as a way to provide a space to grieve for people affected by the earthquake­s.

Soyalp — who came to the Bay Area from Turkey two decades ago — said anyone who leaves a country leaves a part of their heart there.

“We learn to exist in multiple places at one time,” she said. “It is hard to be alone. I hope this place provides that with us being together.”

Creating spaces for collective grief, Nasser said, is a method of self care for people who are far from their homeland.

“Togetherne­ss in community is crucial for us as people of a diaspora to be able to survive and exist as healthy as possible,” she said. “Also, sending solidarity and support energetica­lly and emotionall­y for everyone who has lost their lives — it is a moment of acknowledg­ment of grief.”

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southeaste­rn Turkey and northweste­rn Syria on Feb. 6 and nine hours later an aftershock of 7.5 rocked the region. As of Tuesday, the death toll for both earthquake­s in Turkey had reached more than 35,000 people, according to Reuters.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag on Sunday said 131 people were under investigat­ion for their roles in the constructi­on of buildings that failed to withstand the earthquake­s. Public scrutiny in the wake of the earthquake­s has fallen heavily on the faulty constructi­on. On Saturday, the overall death toll in Syria was at 3,553 people, according to a report from the Associated Press, although experts say the numbers from the Syrian government­controlled areas had not been updated in days and may be higher.

Nasser Meerkhan, who attended Tuesday night’s vigil and identifies as Kurdish and Syrian, said the areas hit by the earthquake in Syria contain some of the country’s most vulnerable population­s.

“It is not that there is a good place for an earthquake to happen but these are particular­ly vulnerable people even within Syria, Kurdistan and Turkey,” he said. “It is heartbreak­ing — especially if you don’t believe they are in a better place. All I can think is that they are in a terrible place.”

 ?? Brontë Wittpenn/The Chronicle ?? An altar at Lake Merritt created by local therapists honors the lives lost after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria.
Brontë Wittpenn/The Chronicle An altar at Lake Merritt created by local therapists honors the lives lost after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States