This article was not planned, but with the terrorist attack of Sri Lanka, I decided to write something very personal. I would love to share my personal experiences related with terrorist attacks and why terrorism will not stop me from living and traveling.
On Sunday 20th April I was in Kalpitiya, staying in Valampuri Kite Resort while I was helping with Digital Marketing. We all woke up and while having breakfast someone said there had been an explosion in Colombo. A short while after, I started receiving messages asking if I was safe.
We realized it was a big terrorist attack: some churches and also a couple of luxury hotels were blasted. It was almost unbelievable. That day, we didn’t do anything else but following the news, replying messages and trying to reach out everyone we knew to make sure they were safe.
That situation brought me back to 2016 when I moved to Istanbul. Maybe some of you won’t remember that in 2016 there were 6 terrorist attacks and a military coup in the city. I moved to Turkey 4 days after the terrorist attack which took place in Sultanahmet, in January 2016. As I already had the flight and the decision to leave my village to start a new adventure, I didn’t change my plans. Why change my mind, after all those months of struggling and fighting for a new beginning?
My feelings after the terrorist attacks in Turkey
As I mentioned before, I moved to Istanbul right after the bomb blasting in January 2016. I went to Sultanahmet a few days after my arrival, when the situation seemed calm. That square was full of fences and policemen and, that day, there were some bomb technician in there… It was a pretty anxious situation so I left the area as I didn’t feel comfortable. It seemed something was going on but, luckily, nothing happened.
Just a few months after, in March 2016, 5 people were killed in an explosion in Istiklal Avenue, one of the most touristic and commercial area of Istanbul. Right after that attack, a lot of rumors were spread around the city and we were told to avoid crowds or very busy areas (which is difficult, as Istanbul is a huge and very populated city). A week after that, I was told to not leave the house at all as there was going to be 7 bomb blasting around the city. I think I will never forget my heartbeat the first time I went back to that street after the attack. I had a strange feeling I cannot tell with words. I was walking on where other people died when they were just discovering that wonderful city. I asked to myself why is the world that unfair to take people’s lives in this way.
After this one, there were a couple of terrorist attacks more in June 2016: one in police station Vezneziller and the other, in Atatürk Airport. This last one was quite intense for me, as I wasn’t sure if one of my friends, Núria, was flying that day or not. Luckily, she flew the day after, which was a very hard experience for her.
This was just the middle of the year. When the situation seemed to be calm again, another bomb blasting in Istanbul. That terrorist attack took place outside the Besiktas Stadium, in December 2016 and I won’t ever forget it. That day I was in the neighborhood of Fatih when suddenly a lot of ambulances were coming and going from the hospital located next to the cafe where I was. The waiter turned the TV on and we found out there had been a bomb blasting in the Besiktas Stadium. As no one really knew what happened, some people start spreading the rumor that the bomb was inside, during the game.
One of my good friends was there, watching the match. When I knew this, I start shaking and of course, I called my friend. Mobile switched off. No reply. More ambulances coming and going. People watching the news in Turkish while I was understanding nothing. No one around me at that moment spoke good English. In that instant I took a decision: if something had happened to my friend, I would be leaving Turkey for good. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the feeling of walking nearby a place where one of my friends was killed. Luckily, after a few hours, he replied. He was fine and having dinner with some friends. I was very relieved and I decided to give “another opportunity” to Istanbul.
The last terrorist attack it happened that year, was the massive kill in Reina Club, during the New Year’s Eve of 2016. That day, my friends and me went to bed quite early and when I woke up I had hundreds of messages and some missed calls. I thought it was nice to have so many people wishing me a happy new year but, when I started reading the messages, most of them were: “Are you safe? Where are you? Are you ok? Please, give news…”. It was very sad to wake up the first day of the year reading such tragic news.
Terrorist attack in Sri Lanka
Last week, the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka made me remember all those feelings I had in Turkey. I want to think most of the people have empathy and get somehow affected when such tragedies happen. But when you are quite near or you have a special attachment to the place, the feelings can be stronger and last longer.
I have been in Sri Lanka for two months now. Initially, I was planning to come just for a few weeks but finally, I decided to stay longer as this island is where I got to discover myself as I never did before. I left behind all the prejudices I had about me, most of them coming from my past experiences which I learned to overcome and forgive.
A lot of tourist left the country immediately after the bombings but I decided to stay, I decided to follow my journey and I dind’t change my plans. To me, it sounded way more crazy to be in a very crowded airport 24 hours after the attacks, when everything is still uncertain, than being in somewhere else in the island. As I wrote in the beginning, I was lucky to be in Kalpitiya, a village 2 hours north from Colombo, famous for kite surfing. I am very happy of this decision and I am grateful I have an amazing family who trust my decisions and they know I will do my best to be safe.
Keep traveling, don’t let the terrorists win
I cannot understand why people kill. I think I cannot even imagine the feeling of the families who lost their beloved ones in these or any terrorist attack. But I want to have hope. I hope terrorism will not win. That is why I will keep traveling and I will keep living my life as much normal as possible.
It is more likely to die because of a car accident than from a terrorist attack. Furthermore, if we observe the statistics, there were more deaths by terrorist attacks in Europe during the 80s and 90s than nowadays. Of course, the world has changed so much in the last 20 years and the threads we are facing might be different. We can not let terrorism get the power: if we change our lifestyles they win. If we hate other people because of their believes, they win. If we are less supportive with people because of their origins, they win.