A moving image from the streets of disaster

by Nicole Dickson


I’ve been watching the news on television this past week, as I’m sure many of you have been doing too, and seeing glimpses of the devastation, heartache, anguish and loss the recent earthquake has brought to Turkey and Syria. But one image, in particular, has remained with me.


It’s an image which seems to encapsulate the unspeakable pain of this 7.8 magnitude “major” earthquake – that of a father holding the hand of his 15-year-old daughter.  Perhaps an ordinary parental gesture, you might think, but then you notice that her hand is the only part of her body that is visible, peering out from under a menacing slab of concrete.


Mesut Hancer sits alone in the freezing cold on a pile of rubble that was once his home, seemingly oblivious to the world around him but to his daughter.


His daughter, Irmak, lies lifeless next to him. Yet he refuses to leave her alone, tenderly caressing the fingers peeking out from the mattress she was asleep on when the first pre-dawn tremor struck on Monday of last week.


At that time, there were no rescue teams. Survivors were frantically clawing their way through the rubble to find loved ones amidst bits of their homes thrown out onto the rubble-strewn street.


There have also been reports of people and children being rescued from collapsed buildings, including a newborn baby who was found alive and still tied by her umbilical cord to her mother, who died inside the family’s home in northern Syria.


And in the Syrian town of Jinderis, a young girl named Nour was pulled alive from the wreckage of a collapsed building on Monday.  News reports that a rescuer cradled her head in his hands and tenderly wiped the dust from around her eyes as she lay amid crushed concrete and twisted metal before being pulled out.


Rescue teams and civilians working in freezing temperatures have dug — sometimes with their bare hands — through the remains of buildings and mountains of rubble in search of trapped survivors and the bodies of loved ones.


Heartbreakingly, for Mesut and Irmak, this won’t be the case.


This week, in my times of quiet and reflection, I’ve been wondering why this image has moved me so much.  Yes, it’s an image of deep loss and pain that I rightly feel I am intruding on, but I sense something else too.


Perhaps it’s because it is an unquestionable token of love from a father who remains present.  Amidst the pain of unspeakable loss, this grieving father sits vigil beside his daughter, tenderly caressing her hand, even in death. This seemingly poignant act of resistance seems to rail against the finality of death.


Or perhaps it’s also because when I wondered, for a brief second, where God was in this place. He became a grieving father, just like Mesut, sitting vigil amidst the darkness of death, gently caressing Irmak’s hand. And I know, despite the circumstances of a broken world, that God never leaves us alone.

Related Posts