In the north of the city of Latakia lies the village of "La'lamieh" where I live with my elderly mother and father in a two-story house, with each floor covering an area of about 300 square meters. Two years ago, due to poor construction and lack of experience and skill from the builders, as well as natural factors and the age of the house (about 50 years old), seven pillars in the ground floor cracked and I was planning on renovating them during the summer.
On Monday, February 6th, at 3:00 am local time, the electricity went out, and I immediately turned on the electric heater in my room. Then, I went to the adjacent room to check on my parents who, for health reasons, cannot walk without assistance; my mother has a fractured pelvis and my father has Alzheimer's. After making sure they were okay, I went back to my room to enjoy the warmth and continue writing an article that talks about the idea of safety and stability in this world full of risks and instability.
At 4:00 am, I stopped writing and started browsing Facebook. The weather was rainy, stormy, and extremely cold. It didn't take long for me to feel that something was strange! It took me a few seconds to realize that there was an earthquake, which made me stand in one corner of the room where there is a cement column, having completely forgotten about the cracked pillars on the ground floor.
In the first few seconds of the earthquake, I did not feel terror or panic; because I was filled with hope, yes, hope that in the next second, the walls of my room would stop shaking. The time it took for each second to end was so long, and my hope was getting weaker with each passing second. After many long seconds, the hope inside me died. At that moment, I thought about opening the door of my room and jumping from the balcony. The idea occurred to me several times, but I didn't carry it out for reasons I do not know.
As soon as the earthquake stopped, I ran out of my room to my parents' room. My father was still asleep, but my mother, I guessed, woke up in the last few seconds of the earthquake since she asked me, "Is that strong thunder outside? My bed shook a little!"
After all my hope died and I didn't jump off the balcony, I imagined that in the next few seconds the ceiling would collapse, and the floor of the room would collapse with it, and I would fall with the debris to the ground floor and die. When I finished imagining the scene, I accepted my death. Wait! Did you notice, like me, the word "accepted"? It seems that after I escaped death, I want to prove to myself that I am a brave person who is reconciled with death, and am not afraid of it, while the truth is that at that moment I was scared, terrified, helpless, and I surrendered to my death against my will. It is death, my darlings, it is the terrifying, ugly adversary that can never be defeated!
"Leave us to die!"
When I started thinking about what I would do in case another earthquake happened in the next few minutes, my fear increased, especially since our house is old and has cracked pillars.
I told myself it would be wise to get my parents and me out of the house, but I quickly gave up on the idea because the weather outside was cold and rainy, and the wind was so strong that they might die from the cold, aside from the fact that getting them down from the second floor would require at least five minutes if there were two other people helping me, whereas doing it alone would take more than 15 minutes. While I was thinking about what to do, my mother's voice came again, broken and afraid: "Son, leave us and get out of the house." But I told her, "Do not be afraid, the danger has passed, and we will all stay in the house."
Why didn't I leave my parents and exit the house the moment the earthquake stopped?
I am not a hero. I'm neither brave, nor an exceptional person. I love life and I'd hate to die. Despite that, I stayed with my parents. In my opinion, what I did has been done by the majority of people in the past and present – and will do in the future – with their parents, children, siblings, and perhaps even with strangers, whether there's an earthquake, a flood, a war, or the like.
Why didn't I leave my parents and exit the house the moment the earthquake stopped? Because I want to survive, and leaving the house and abandoning them will not bring me the survival and salvation I want. Because there may be another earthquake (or aftershock) minutes after I leave, that would cause the walls to fall on top of them, and they die. If that happens, would I really have survived after I abandoned them? Some say that salvation is an individual case, but the way I see it is that there are situations and circumstances that are impossible to survive from individually.
Why didn't I leave my parents and exit the house the moment the earthquake stopped? Because I want to survive.
Why didn't I leave them? Because I imagined my mother, terrified, unable to move, looking at the walls and ceiling as they crumble and fall over her and my father. And in case they remain alive under the rubble, while I am looking for them, I might hear my mother's frightened and pained voice calling out for me, "Oh, Ramy my son, I'm in pain." And I would hear my father's voice, weak and helpless, crying out in pain. No words, just cries of pain, for he no longer remembers me or my name to call out for me to come rescue him. And perhaps they'll die before I could rescue them.
Why didn't I leave them? Because of hope, yes, hope. I had hope that if the earthquake happened again, our house would not collapse and I would survive with my parents. I also had confidence, based on hope, that I would be able to save myself and my parents at the same time, even though logic says that in the event of an earthquake and the house began to collapse, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to save myself, let alone save two elderly people who are almost completely unable to move.
Why didn't I leave them? Because for me, in moments like these, if it is not collective, it cannot be called survival. Rather, it'll just be another form of death, another form of hell.
A few days after the earthquake, I read on Facebook a sentence that a Syrian young man had said after he lost his entire family: "They are all okay, except me."
Why didn't I leave them behind? Because, in moments like this, if it's not collective, it cannot be survival. Rather, it'll be another form of death, another hell. After he lost his entire family, a Syrian young man said: "They're all okay, except me"
Would I have stayed with my parents if the earthquake happened again?
Although I did not leave my parents, I am against blaming anyone who left others and saved himself when the earthquake struck, because sometimes in moments of danger, panic, and hysteria, our survival instinct drives us to save ourselves.
In fact, despite everything I said about not leaving my mother and father, I cannot be 100% sure that I would stay with them in the event of another earthquake. If I saw the walls of the house and the ceiling collapsing and I was unable to help them, my instinct of survival might push me to flee and get out of the house or take shelter, leaving my parents to face their fate alone. If that happened and I survived and lost my father or mother or both, I would live out the remainder of my life blaming myself.
Now I feel like a lucky person; because the merciless earthquake did not come back and destroy my house, or force me to either run and save myself, or stay and die with my mother and father, or watch them die in front of me while I am powerless to do anything. Thank you, earthquake, for not subjecting me to this experience, in which I would undoubtedly lose, in pain and full of regret.
My house is no longer safe, especially after the cracks and fissures increased in its columns and walls due to the earthquake, and it seems that there is no escape from having to demolish part of it – maybe even demolish it completely. Whenever I think about it, I feel sadness and pain, because it is not easy for a person to destroy the home he lived in his entire life.
* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22
Raseef22 is a not for profit entity. Our focus is on quality journalism. Every contribution to the NasRaseef membership goes directly towards journalism production. We stand independent, not accepting corporate sponsorships, sponsored content or political funding.
Support our mission to keep Raseef22 available to all readers by clicking here!