On June 28, three days after we left, the Istanbul Ataturk Airport was attacked by terrorists. Three suicide bombers killed 47 tourists, Turks, airport workers and taxi drivers and injured 200 more.
The attackers specifically targeted foreigners like us in a place we had just been, blowing themselves up at the arrivals door, the departures door and in the parking lot. The attack is presumed to have been by ISIS.
This attack has hit closer to home for us, in terms of proximity and timing, but also because we were in those very places, with those very people. Because it could easily have been us.
When we booked the flights, we assured our loved ones that Istanbul was safe; the attacks this year had been in other parts of Turkey. But that can change in a moment.
We didn’t find out about the attacks until that evening when we returned from a day in Valencia. As soon as I logged in, my phone blew up with notifications.
First, the NY Times breaking news announcement: Istanbul Airport hit by suicide bombers. Next, my parents called: have you seen the news? Then, our friends: Are you in Turkey? Are you okay?
Questions filled our thoughts and conversations together, and continue to do so.
Why were we lucky and others weren’t?
Was our friendly driver, who laughed at my filming the ride to the airport, there that day?
What about the man who greeted us at arrivals with our name on a sign?
And the woman at the security checkpoint at departures?
How could someone do this?
Why did they target tourists who just wanted to see their beautiful city?
When will the next attack be? Where?
Should we change our return flights to avoid Istanbul?
But this is the very reason that we travel. We go to foster understanding in place of ignorance; to build friendships instead of grudges; to make connections, not assumptions.
Hatred drives people like those three suicide bombers to walk into an airport, look at the innocent people and children around them and then hit the button to destroy lives. Hatred makes terror a methodology and death a mechanism. Hatred even leads innocent people to jump to angry conclusions and say hateful things in reaction to things like this.
I don’t have the power to stop terrorism; I don’t have the power to stop bombs or hate speeches or police shootings or dictatorships. But I do have the power to not hate, and to implore others to choose love, not hate.
I have the power to show you the humanity I find in people. I can show you the beauty I see in diversity. I can show you different angles to consider as you decide for yourself what to think.
So please, dear reader, keep reading and keep loving.