This time last year, I was standing at the entrance of Istanbul's Ataturk airport, holding the hands of my then six-year-old and two-year-old daughters, waving goodbye to my extended family. As I stood outside by what I that day called 'a fortress' (security was so tight, not even an ant could squeeze through), I wept as I hugged my cousins, promising I'd come back this year. If I'd known then what I know now, I would have sobbed harder; it was to be my farewell tour.
Yesterday I woke up to the news that three terrorists had opened fire at that exact same spot - international departures - before detonating bombs and killing 41 people, injuring 239 others (at last count).
From experience I know that there would have been mothers nervously clutching the hands of their babies, already exhausted at the thought of the trip ahead. There would have been the elderly looking forward to visiting theirs in distant lands. The explosions were timed to go off during the busiest week of the year, a time when many were departing to celebrate the end of Ramadan with their loved ones. The bastards.
It's hard to articulate what it's like to watch your parents' homeland crumble as you watch on helplessly from the safety of a veritable paradise on the other side of the globe. Guilt consumes most of your thoughts so that whenever you play with your kids in the park, or tuck them in at night, you're never truly at peace. Why me? you want to know. Why is it that I was lucky enough to be born here while everyone else was left behind only to now spend every day wondering if they're going to make it home safely?
You hear stories of businesses folding in their thousands, and people losing their livelihood in the once-bustling streets you loved to frequent. The tourists are no longer coming, you see, and neither is the money. Anger at the injustice of it all follows this one and it's a biggie. You want to go back so that you can flash the cash just like a Rothschild in order to help, and then you realise you're too frightened to go and this breaks your heart.
For me and many other Turkish-Australians like me, it was also a day we woke up to a new reality, a new future yet unwritten.
Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt I would one day buy an apartment in Istanbul, a pad where I could visit and rattle through its rooms as I aged, and my children could play outside on its steps as I used to. Whenever I started to lose ambition, it was the idea of that apartment that keep me working, thriving, forever driving me towards my goal. Then the first bomb fell, and then another and another. All in all - ten since last July. "When are we going back?" my seven-year-old wants to know. "You promised we could go back every year." How do you tell your child that there's a good chance they'll never walk her streets or see her extended family again? You don't; you simply say, 'When we can afford it' and quickly change the topic.
Yesterday was June 29, 2016 - a day where we woke up to the news that at least 41 innocent people died in a terror attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. It's a horror that will stay with me until the end of days, a horror I feel as a human. But for me and many other Turkish-Australians like me, it was also a day we woke up to a new reality, a new future yet unwritten. It was the day our dreams died.
Istanbul, you'll probably never lose your grip on me, but I have to let go of you.