He is a heavy head and cries when we meet him at the Kilis border.
Mohamed Kenno (21 years old) has just returned from taking the bodies his uncle and younger cousin to relatives in Syria, to be buried in Azaz, their border town.
His family fled Syria’s civil war 10 years back, only to be found dead in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey.
Fatih, his cousin, drives through the border crossing in a black Volkswagen that they now use as a hearse. We remove the blue plastic body bags from the car and take a seat in the back of the vehicle, where the bodies were piled.
I ask him about the impact of the earthquake on his faith.
“It has strengthened our faith. Mohamed said, “We have seen death and survived.” “All things are God’s will.”
They will return to the Azerbaycan boulevard, where his extended family once lived. Both sides have been reduced to rubble. Some of his aunts, uncles, and cousins survived while others did not.
Mohamed leads us to the remains of a building once home to his aunt, uncle and four cousins. Although the parents were able to escape, their son was still alive. A huge digger scours the rubble looking for three of the young sisters.
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Mohamed’s cousins gather around the firepit on the neighboring roof and prepare to spend the night there, as the prayers sound. They look out for signs of life every time the digger stops.
Two rescue workers take out books for children from the crushed cement, and call their names. They groan in pain as they hear the name and age of their fourth sibling, the boy they had pulled out days earlier.
Vauldi’s producer is grabbed by a neighbor who jumps in and grabs the headtorch. Mohamed follows the neighbour and shouts out the names of the three sisters.
The digger continues to scratch at the seemingly endless pile of debris for what feels like 100th times. The cousins lose hope when suddenly a lifeless hand appears.
They continue digging in the hope of finding another corpse. The neighbour suddenly stops digging and turns to exclaim, “She’s alive!” She’s alive!”
Rescue teams are alerted by shouts and whistles across the street. Emergency workers flood the site with their help.
Mohamed calls his family in a joyous call and punches the air with the fist.
As Sham, the youngest sister is retrieved, the exclamations of Allahu Akar – God is great! – ring out.
As people cheer, she is transferred to a stretcher and then through a human chain that leads to an ambulance. Her older sister is also in her body bag.
Unfortunately, the ending of this story is not happy.
Sham succumbed to her injuries hours later in hospital. Her grieving relatives were then tasked with transporting their young relatives’ bodies back to the border.
One child is killed, one is found alive, and the other is buried beneath the building.
Happiness quickly overtook horror and was replaced by heartache.
This is the truth of this disaster.