Before we got to Istanbul, my plan was to bring you some dispatches from the Atatürk Airport, as we were there only two weeks after three suicide bombers killed 45 people and wounded almost 250 others.
I imagined I’d get some pictures of the blast sites and of a lot of officers patrolling with automatic weapons. And I thought I’d try to write a bit about the trouble we humans generally have when deciding whether we’re likely to be in danger, which I explored here and here.
And then we got to Istanbul, after having changed hotels to avoid famous landmarks and changed our plans to avoid crowded areas. Everything looked just like the last time we were there–we didn’t see any evidence of explosions or gunfire; we didn’t see a lot of police. Granted, there were seven security checkpoints where either we and our passports or our luggage were scrutinized, but there were seven the last time we were in Istanbul, so nothing seemed different.
And so we walked around our hotel’s neighborhood, bought provisions, went out to eat, found a mosque to investigate (more on that in future), and thought to ourselves how glad we were that things seemed to have calmed down.
We left around 3 pm on Wednesday, and, through the wonders of aviation and the traversing of time zones, managed to squeeze in a ten-hour flight before landing at 6 pm. We spent the entire next day in airports and planes to get us to the Rocky Mountains, and Friday learned that a military coup had been launched in Turkey. Two bridges across the Bosphorus were blocked; the airport we had so recently left was in control of the military, and no flights were going in or out. We read about tanks in the streets, the media being shut down, a curfew imposed, and a prepared statement read from something called the “Peace in the Nation” council.
As of Saturday morning, it sounded like the government had reasserted control. The soldiers on the bridges have been arrested, the dead/wounded count is being tallied, and more than 2800 people have been detained as plotters of the coup.
And I’m thinking of the very nice Turkish engineering student who served as our interpreter* when we talked with the old gentlemen outside the mosque, and of the 7-year-old girl with the large eyes and dark curly hair who giggled next to me on the bench as I asked her questions. What is happening to them now? What will next week be like for them and their families?
Next week perhaps I can tell you interesting details about our trip. Right now, I’m thanking God that we’re safe, and pondering the uncertain future of a fascinating region of the world.
[Images: turnerconstruction.com, yours truly]
*He was scheduled to fly out on Friday, and that can’t have happened. There are flights going out today, but I wonder whether the events of the last few days have impacted him or his family so as to change his plans.