, , , , ,


Today marks the 27th anniversary of the earthquake that destroyed my city, Gyumri, Armenia. On Wednesday, December 7, 1988 at 11:41 local time, a 6.8 magnitude quake struck the northwestern part of the country. In the span of 4 seconds somewhere between 25,000-50,000 people were killed and at least 130,000 injured. The cities of Spitak, Vanadzor and Gyumri (at the time known as Leninakan) were hardest hit, with Gyumri reduced to rubble. Though I had no way of knowing it at the time, as a result of that earthquake I was sent to Gyumri as a Peace Corps volunteer. Everything that happened to me — for good and bad — are a direct result of those 4 seconds. The Armenian word for earthquake is yerkrasharzh (երկրաշարժ), a lose translation being, “it trembles, it crumbles, it falls down.” That is the best description in a single word of the horror, pain and loss that occurred, but also all the love the compassion, the coming together when the world seemed the darkest. The people of Gyumri, despite everything that happened, are some of the bravest, kindest and open souls I’ve ever had the honor of living with. I am not Armenian but Gyumri will always be my home, the ghost city that haunts my dreams, a memory I will never be able to return to but always carry with me.