For the fourth time, the ground rattles and the glass shakes. Explosions and one bout of gunfire have been heard from outside. This is the life I am currently living…. And in Turkey of all places.
Women weep, strangers shout, and stampedes begin to form.
1 PM Sunday:
Yesterday in the early hours of the morning, there was a military coup. My housemate and I were both sitting in a private lounge of Ataturk International Airport watching the television as the cameras focused on two bridges. After hearing about Nice, France, I suspected it was additional coverage from that terrorist attack, but everything was in Turkish. Maybe people were gathering in support or in protest of what had happened? I wasn’t too concerned. BBC didn’t have anything new on their front page, so we figured it was old news.
When the staff began to gather in front of the television and make calls, that’s when we started doing some additional internet searches. “Military Coup” google’s search screen read.
There happened to be three additional families we knew of in the airport area. One outside of passport control, one inside the airport, and the two others we suspected had already boarded their flight. Our friends inside called us and asked us to meet at our gate.
From there we learned that tanks had surrounded the airport and that all flights were canceled… Knowing it would be a long night, we decided to return to the lounge.
In all the craziness, I must say I am so thankful. Not only did the lounge staff allow me and my housemate into a nicer area and settle into the only private room, but in the end they allowed three additional families with me as well for free (the two families that boarded were allowed off the plane and after a few stampedes made their way down to us). We had water, food, and free wi-fi provided for all of us. Huge, huge blessing!
In that little glass inclosed room, we made phone calls and tried to figure out, security wise, how we were doing. As I was checking out the airport plane schedule outside our room, gunfire could be heard from outside the lounge. A wave of people ran down the stairs and poured into the basement area. I personally couldn’t tell if the shots were from outside the airport or inside… But with people running, I decided it was best to prepare for the worst.
“What if’s” flooded my mind… I’ve seen enough un-blurred videos from ISIS and plenty of news coverage recently to know there are evil things people are willing to do and all of those disgusting images popped up in my mind.
“What if this is it?” A question I never have considered before. In the midst of the chaos and the questions, I am amazed to say there was this incredible peace that settled on me. My hands still shook, but my heart didn’t quiver. I thought to myself, “I have absolutely assurance of where I’m going.” I wondered how many others in the room could feel the same?
Another new thing for me to experience was having to walk back to my friends and wave my hands down. I’ve never had to tell people to get down and take cover. I re-entered the space and together we huddled the children, while hiding under our conference table. Whispering assurances and verses that were memorized that had to do with fear. Realizing our room was all glass, I decided to hop up and see if there was a more secure location in the kitchen or staff areas.
Looking for places to hide in case of a shootout? The worst “what if” my mind could think of… Another thing I haven’t ever had to do or thought I would have to do.
Thankfully I received word that the shots fired were from outside of the building. We were going to be okay…
After a bit more paranoia and random strangers running and diving for cover, I decided to stand by the doors and watch for anything true to be concerned about. That’s when our building shook and the first large explosion could be heard. Another bout of hiding under that conference table…
The last three that went off were more distant and less concerning, but overall it was a tense night.
The female staff members left us, in tears, and the men were attempting crowd control. I can’t imagine how difficult that night must had been for them, as they had recently had a few bombings in that airport…
To pass the time, I stood watch at the doors and ended up welcoming those who came into the lounge that night… Passing out internet codes too for fun. That was actually an enjoyable way to pass the time, not think about the craziness, and I ended up meeting a lot of interesting people.
Later that day as we left the airport, I had a few of those same people come up and talk to me. I found that a bit entertaining.
My favorite was an old Qatari man wearing a traditional thoub (dishdasha) and a white and red checkered head covering. I think before living in the Middle East I would have been afraid of him because of stereotypes I had previously formed; but he was just a jolly old man who kept peace, led a call to prayer for our Muslim friends, and loved to joke around with perfect English. He wanted everyone to laugh.
In the end, we rebooked our flight through some awesome friends back home and left the airport. It wasn’t a safe environment, as passport control was left open for people to pour in and out of, and with everyone on edge, we decided it was best to stay away. We booked a hotel room and taxied into the city… Finally we were out!
Now I’m enjoying a view from the ninth floor and sitting on a very soft bed. Thank you, Jesus!
All is well though and we’ll be flying out in the next couple of days… We are not in a rush, as we figure it would be better to let the airport settle back into a routine and tighten up on security.
Thank you all who have been praying and for your words of support and encouragement. I have felt peace through this entire mess and accredit it to many, many answered prayers. The peace of Jesus is real and something I found refuge in.
Please continue to pray as we journey home and especially pray for the small children that were with us. I know it was a bit traumatic for me, I can’t imagine how the poor children are feeling! Thanks again and I’ll update y’all again later.
My current favorite song. It kept playing through my head all night…