The Byzantine aqueduct stretched from the houses by the fire station over the boulevard and then curved in toward the back of the city theater. Four lanes of traffic flowed under its still solid arches. Saraçhane Square lay in the middle of a park by the same name, surrounded by the ruins of the aqueduct, the Şehzade Mosque, and the City Hall. It was a bustling and lively area, with public offices, theaters, cinemas, and thundering traffic. But the most remarkable thing on that day was not the absence of traffic on the boulevard, it was the hordes of people streaming into the square from all directions. Here and in many other places, İstanbul was preparing for the May Day rallies.
I left school at ten in the morning with a group of friends, and butterflies in my stomach. We were all eighteen and had one year of school left. None of us had been on a May Day march before. It was rumored that the police were going to block off streets in the center of town and arrest anyone who was there. The thought that we might be arrested at the barricades, as it were, was both exciting and nerve-racking, so we laughed and cheered and ran all the way to Saraçhane Square. This was the meeting point for our part of town; we would march from here toward Taksim, as would five or six other rallies from different parts of town. The unions and other organizations had declared in advance that it would be the biggest Labor Day demonstration in living memory, whereas leading figures in the conservative press had condemned it as an attempted revolution and called on the police to prevent the Reds from taking over İstanbul. When we reached Saraçhane Square there was already a festive atmosphere, with music and dancing, a sea of banners and red flags, and speeches that only a few could hear due to the constant hum, like a swarm of bees that was rising from the crowds. Everything was new to us, we moved from one group to the next, talking to complete strangers. It gave us the unusual feeling of sharing something great with lots of people. I had never seen so many women gathered together in one place before, except at school. Several of them were having loud discussions, handing out flyers, selling papers, collecting money for something or other, or wearing armbands to show that they were stewards. After a while, we moved toward the park, where the student organizations were gathering under their own banners. There was a lively debate going on about when the march would start. It was nearly midday, and according to the program, the starting gun had already been fired in other parts of town. Most people were impatient, rumors abounded, with new chaotic and contradictory messages coming in by the minute, but no one knew exactly what was holding us back. Every time a well-known student leader appeared, the hubbub increased, only to die down again in disappointment. We were just as impatient as everyone else, but amused ourselves by making slick comments about the leaders who appeared to be as helpless as we were, especially one who had not been anywhere near an education institution since the beginning of the Seventies. Despite the lovely spring weather, he strode around with a black overcoat thrown over his shoulders, proudly flanked by two bodyguards.
It soon filtered through that it was probably a disagreement between Soviet-friendly organizations and the Maoists that was preventing us from moving off. We ran toward the aqueduct. Representatives from the various political factions were engaged in a passionate exchange in the middle of the street, surrounded by eager onlookers. The atmosphere was tense; insults were flying, packaged in political terminology. I could not understand why they were getting agitated about words like “revisionist,” “opportunist,” and even “adventurist.” My interest in political literature meant that I was not unfamiliar with the terms, and they did not sound in the slightest bit offensive to me. Obviously other people were of a different opinion and were deeply offended by the political insults. I was irritated by the different parties’ antagonism and disgust for each other, and I was not the only one. Here and there people shouted “That’s enough!” and “let’s stand united!” But the agitators and their supporters were in the majority. The Soviet-oriented organizations did not want the Maoists there and the Maoists threatened to use every means possible to secure a patent on words associated with “the proletariat.” The independents, those who neither supported China nor the Soviet Union, tried in vain to negotiate. The two sides showed no sign of backing down from their demands, as that would be tantamount to fleeing the battlefield and betraying the working classes. The workers for their part were unsure as to who actually represented them best. One of them, in overalls, shouted: “Toss a coin!” We laughed. Time passed and we were, in turn, amused, bored and irritated, and while all this was going on, found no reason to comment on the fact that there scarcely any policemen to be seen in the square.
When the march finally set off, it proceeded at a snail’s pace. The student organizations ended up as a kind of buffer zone, second to last in the queue. Behind us marched the Maoists with their banners, megaphones, and slogans. The whole thing turned into a war of slogans. From the front we were told how terrible the Maoist nationalists were, whereas the back rows denounced the Soviet social fascists. The independents tried to focus on the spirit of the day, but were drowned out by the sandwich effect. The war of words meant nothing to me, because I liked to sing more than to shout slogans.
As we passed under the arches of the aqueduct, where the road starts to slope downward, my jaw dropped: in front of me, as far as the eye could see, was wave upon wave of people. The boring wait was forgotten, the ridiculous squabbling, the hunger, thirst and heat. The masses that rolled out before my eyes filled me with pride and joy. A giant had been woken and was on the move, you could almost hear its tramping feet. To be but a molecular part of this giant’s body was enough to make you feel invincible. Nothing would please me more than to confirm the conservatives’ worst fears and take over İstanbul, this time not from the helpless Byzantines, but from a cruel, rotten and corrupt power. Sultan Mehmet would have had no objections. His proud army, who had perhaps struck camp on this very this spot in May 1453, would have looked like a village procession compared to this. It was surely allowed to drift off in a daydream and for a moment forget that a far stronger enemy was now lurking behind the walls, an enemy who would not give up without a fight, and that the giant did not have Sultan Mehmet’s thundering canons. But the giant was not declaring war; it was rather making a statement: “Look, here we are and things will never be the same again.”
By the time we reached the Unkapanı Bridge over the Golden Horn, the sea of people had flooded and blocked all the narrower arteries in the old town, bringing us to a complete standstill. A long and strenuous climb up toward Taksim still lay ahead. Time passed and I felt desperate when I thought that everything might be over by the time we reached the square, that we might not experience the highpoint of the day. I leaned over the railings, despondent, and gazed out: the boats lying at the quay rocked lazily in the brown water, the Galata Bridge in the distance and even further out, a glimpse of the Bosphorus Straits glittering in the afternoon sun.
A couple of my friends were still with me, smoking and chatting, but they looked as pensive as I felt. I wondered what had happened to the others, as we had lost them in the crowds. One suggested that we might as well go back to the school, because all this waiting was pointless, and the teacher on duty would get suspicious if we did not show up on time. And we may well have done so had a message not come through at that moment that the delay was due to the vast hordes of people streaming into the square who had to be organized and positioned. And the march started to move again. My optimism returned and I decided to carry on, no matter what, to see as much as I could. My spirits soared with every step and I thought that I must be the happiest person on earth. My good humor was contagious, and all the faces around me were lit up with smiles.
The bottleneck had eased and we jogged up the hill toward Şişhane. This looked unbelievably funny, so everyone was laughing and fooling around, and those lagging behind were cheered and helped on. And it was not only the demonstrators who were happy. Women, children and men lined the pavements to cheer and clap, and some even threw flowers.
Once we had passed Tepebaşı, progress slowed again. The march seemed to move with reluctance. It felt like the crowds were pushing against something that was resisting. This struggle between two forces resulted in the river of people splitting at Galatasaray and streaming off down the side streets that fed into the square. I stuck with the students, but could not see any of my friends. And then, caught in a narrow street, we had to give up, only a few hundred meters from the square. There was no point in pushing forward; we were told that stewards had blocked all entrances to the square, due to the massive number of people. I was so close, and yet so far. My dream of marching into the square, being met by the cheering masses, perhaps climbing up onto the Republic Monument and looking out over the people who owned this town, was shattered. I sat down on the pavement, even though there was not much room. People stood tightly packed around me, and I was constantly being jostled. But I was incredibly tired, so I did not care.
Soon, those closest to me sat down as well, so there was some relief. I listened to the conversations of my asphalt friends. They were older than me, obviously university students. If what was said was true, the streets leading into the square had been blocked because the Soviet-friendly organizations wanted to keep the Maoists out. The students were angry with both sides. One of them said that he was glad it was not the day they attacked the Winter Palace. As soon as the revolution was underway, those idiots would be at each others’ throats, and we would find ourselves in the middle of an internal conflict. The students did not understand how anyone could even consider marking the day without their organizations being present. They had their concerns, but my main worry was how deep and powerful the divide seemed to be. Only that morning I had been optimistic and believed in the solidarity of the working classes. Perhaps I was just naïve, sitting in my ivory tower, protected and surrounded by the school walls. Democracy for the people could not evolve without opposition. There had to be room for different ideas. I was just not sure how.
A whoop of joy woke me from my thoughts. I instinctively looked at my watch. It was past six o’clock. A young woman came running toward where we were sitting and told out us, out of breath, that the student organizations were to be allowed into the square, but we had to hurry, because as soon as we were in, they were going to block off the streets again. As we got up and brushed the dust from our pants, she ran on to spread the news. I was now scared that something might happen at the last minute to stop us, so I elbowed my way forward and was relieved when the rows of people started to move. Excited, I stretched my neck as far as I could to see what was happening up ahead, as endless rows of banners blocked my view. The people beside me knew no more than I did. But we were moving forward and that was what mattered. I could soon hear the buzz that characterizes large crowds gathered in one place, and deafening waves of slogans could be heard at frequent intervals, swelling in volume from somewhere. And then finally our row got to the end of the street and spilled into the square.
Dozens of middle-aged men lined up on either side monitored our parade with serious expressions. They were all wearing vests with the Revolutionary Workers’ Union logo. If they were looking for Maoists, they would find none in our ranks. Several students waved at them, but got no response. “Not everyone is having fun today, some people are working,” I thought to myself. We walked quickly past them and took our first steps into the square; the arrival of the students was greeted with resounding applause. It was just as I had imagined. Demonstrators filled the pavements, stood on the roofs of bus shelters, blanketed the lawns of Taksim Park, hung from the trees and anything else that they could hang from. I could just forget the Republic Monument; you could barely make out its shape. The monument stood in the middle of the square and was now swarming with people. On one side of the square, a gigantic banner was draped over the façade of the Culture Center. Clearly visible from all angles, it declared: “Long Live Labor Day” and showed a worker breaking his chains. Once in the square, we flowed to the right, where we had been allocated a position, my guess was either in front of the Culture Center or by the park. The rows moved incredibly slowly. The density and everyone’s wish to savor the moment slowed us down. We filed past the Water Authority building, past the offices where I had worked as a gofer for a photographer in summer 1973, and were approaching the Hotel International. The hotel was a modern high-rise that marred the surroundings, but not even its ugly profile could destroy my mood today. I felt happier than I had ever been.
The first noises sounded like a hydraulic drill somewhere nearby, but then something immediately warned me that my senses were being deceived. Something similar must have happened simultaneously in the minds of thousands of others. At first there was silence, and then when the cracking sounds started again, there was a desperate shout and chaotic movement scattered us in every direction, like a flock of panicking sheep. “They’re shooting,” people shouted. Several automatic weapons were fired at the same time. I was thrown forward by something that hit me forcefully in the back. That was when I started to be really scared. I thought I had been shot. But it was not a bullet, it was the people behind me trying to get away. I was swept up by a wave and carried forward. It was impossible to keep my feet on the ground; I was a helpless victim of the surge from behind, but was pushing those in front of me forward, and could not think of what else to do. Suddenly, a strapping young man was standing there with his arms in the air, shouting: “Don’t panic, don’t run!” but he was quickly immersed by the waves. Through a small gap in the crowd, I saw that we were by the hill at Kazancı that sloped down toward Kabataş Quay. The brow of the hill was littered with bodies lying helter-skelter. Just then, I tripped over a lifeless body lying on the asphalt, fell down on all fours, hitting my knees so hard that the pain jolted through my body. The pain and the threat of the wave behind me sharpened my survival instinct. I knew that I had to do something, anything, or I would be trampled to death any second. I crawled forward as fast as I could. When I stood up, everyone else had lain down to seek cover from the bullets. They formed an enormous carpet that spread out over the entire square and were an easy target for anyone shooting from above. Mustering what little strength I had left, I managed to make it to a relatively safe spot by the Republic Monument and threw myself down when I heard the next volley of shots.
* “Be a man and stand up,” a calm voice said, with some exasperation. I clambered to my feet and met her eyes first. They were black and angry. “Can you use one of these?” she asked and waved a pistol and a revolver at me.
I shook my head.
“Damn,” she sighed. “Well, keep hold of this, then, and make sure you don’t lose it.” She held up a canvas shoulder bag, threw it over to me, and looked around. A man came running toward us. He was tall, young and handsome.
“Thank God, I found you,” he said to her. She said nothing, just handed the revolver to the young man. He gave the barrel a quick check.
“Where are they?” he asked, slightly out of breath.
“I’m not sure. On the roof of the Water Authority offices, I think,” she replied.
The automatic gunfire had stopped. But you could hear sporadic cracks from handguns.
“Look!” shouted the man and pointed toward the Water Authority building. I looked in the same direction. There were shadows on the roof—at least, I thought I saw something move—and then a moment later, the man started to shoot. And so did the woman. I was standing beside her and could see how she supported her right hand with her left as she pulled the trigger. The cartridges spewed out of the mechanism. One of them hit me on the cheek. It was glowing hot. The pain made me angry. This was pointless and idiotic. Apart from anything else, the distance was too great—I knew that much about the range of a handgun.
“Give me the bag,” she said when she was done.
“No, I can carry it,” I said crossly. She obviously did not have time to argue.
“All right, then give me a magazine and some bullets.”
It did not take long to find them, as there was nothing other than two spare magazines and a lot of loose bullets in the bag.
“Who’s the boy?” the young man asked as he loaded his revolver. She shrugged, but turned to me in surprise as if she had suddenly remembered something.
“Just stick close to me until I tell you otherwise,” she said. I did not like her attitude, but did not want to say anything. I was terrified and alone.
A new barrage of shouts stole my attention. An armored police car with enormous wheels had entered the square from Dolmabahçe, by the Culture Center. It was ruthlessly driving into the crowd, creating even more panic. Most people managed to react in time and threw themselves to safety. A woman stumbled and fell to the ground. The big wheels rolled over her, one side of the vehicle lifted and then bumped down again. The car continued its journey without stopping, now heading toward us. We, the pistol woman and I, moved sharply to the left, while the young man sprinted to the right toward the hotel entrance. The car rolled past between us. When I turned again, I saw him running behind the police car. The crowd closed ranks behind him, and he disappeared. My apathy was replaced by fear. I just wanted to give her the bag and escape, only I did not know where to and how. In another time and another place, I would have rushed over to help the woman who had been run over, but right now, I could think of no one but myself. The woman beside me looked slightly confused.
“Where are your shoes?” she asked. I looked down. My shoes had vanished. “Wait here, don’t move,” she said, and disappeared.
I was calm, apathy enveloped me once more. Time had lost all meaning, so I had no idea how long I waited, without registering what was going on around me. I just knew deep down that she would come back.
I would scarcely have recognized her again when she did finally come running back toward me, had she not been holding the pistol in one hand and a pair of shoes in the other. Two odd sneakers. In the end I made no comment. She had done her best, given the situation, and when I put them on, they were, of course, too big. I tightened the shoelaces as well as I could. She had something that resembled a smile on her face when I straightened up; she grabbed my hand and said: “Let’s get out of here.”
We headed toward the Culture Center, but the road to Dolmabahçe was now blocked by gendarmes, who for the moment were standing still, presumably awaiting orders. I recovered my voice and told her about the side street we had come down to get into the square, where I had not seen any policemen. She turned around without comment. It was taking a risk, as for all we knew it might be crawling with police and soldiers by now. For the first time since I had met her, I actually registered our surroundings. Many people were still cowering by the Republic Monument, in bus shelters and the park. Banners, flags, abandoned shoes, and clothes lay strewn on the ground. A thin pall of smoke and sporadic gunfire made the whole thing look like a battlefield. Earlier I had seen lifeless bodies, but the ones we passed now appeared to be unscathed. You could see fear and confusion in nearly every face. I hoped that everyone was all right, the people I had left lying on Kazancı Hill and the woman who had been run over. “Is it safe now?” people asked. My pistol woman hurried on without answering, bent low and pulling me behind her. I copied her, even though I did not know why bending down would protect us. But no one shot at us. In fact, it was had been a while since we had heard machine-gunfire. When we reached the street corner, we saw five or six stewards in Revolutionary Workers’ Union vests. They were guarding the street, with pistols in their hands, and gestured to us to lie down. We did not break our stride until we were beside them.
“Who is it that’s shooting? The police?” the woman demanded.
One of them looked her up and down. “No. The bloody Maoists,” he said, and spat on the asphalt. “They shot at us and we fired back.”
Or the other way round, I thought to myself. There were lots of empty cartridges on the ground.
“What did they use? Machine guns? Handguns?” she asked.
The man looked at her in surprise. “Handguns, of course, like the one you’re holding. Anyway, they’re not here any more, we’ve driven them off.” He was really proud of this little exchange of gunfire, the idiot, and probably had no idea of what had happened in the rest of the area. I started to be irritated by their small talk and was just about to say something, when the woman tightened her grip on my hand and said, “Come on.”
We were an odd couple, running along the now empty streets, she with her pistol and me with my handbag. I did not take time to look around, but could feel on my skin that people were standing up in the windows staring down at us, with fear in their eyes. Just before the main road, we slowed to a walk. I did not protest when she took the bag from me and put away the gun. We waited while two police cars drove past, then crossed the road and walked into Tepebaşı Park, which sloped down toward Kasimpaşa. “We can catch a bus at Kasimpaşa,” she said.
We walked together in silence for awhile, and for the first time I looked at her with eyes that saw. She was a grown woman, unlike the immature girls that I knew. Her face was framed by long, wild, dark hair; she wore no make-up and was pleasant to look at. I caught a glimpse of the white lace of her bra through her badly buttoned checked shirt. Her legs were long and muscular, and she was wearing faded jeans and suede shoes.
“What are you staring at?” she asked, when she realized I was looking at her. She decided that it must be her shirt, and buttoned it right up to the collar. “By the way, you look awful,” she added.
My hair was cropped, so there could not be much wrong with it; my face, on the other hand, was another matter. My polo shirt was dirty, there was a great hole in the right knee of my jeans, and my shoes, well, they were not my own.
“So do you,” I replied. She smiled, ran her fingers through her messy hair, found a hair band and then with one lithe movement pulled it back in a tight ponytail.
“What do you think now?” She looked more serious and grown-up. I wanted to know how grown-up.
“How old are you?”
“Twenty-one. And you?”
There was no reason to be ashamed of being eighteen. “Twenty,” I said.
She arched an eyebrow. “You look much younger.” It was embarrassing, pathetic. Damn, she had seen through me. I changed the subject.
“Are you a Maoist?”
She pretended to be offended. “Do I look like I have a penchant for farmers?”
“Do you think it was the Maoists, then?” I was genuinely curious.
“No,” was her sharp reply. “They weren’t even in the square. The others were keeping an eye on them all the time, and handguns, yes, but it’s not very likely that they would have machine guns. What do you think? Do you think it was them?”
“No,” I said just as firmly. She had convinced me. Talking to her made it all seem so obvious. She appeared to be so calm and listened to my nervous witticisms with an encouraging smile. I, on the other hand, could barely hold myself together and my hands were shaking. My fear trailed me like an unwanted companion.
She felt bad, she said, that no one had been able to protect the participants. Even though there had been warnings of the attack—it had been as good as advertised in the papers—it had all ended in chaos. The group she belonged to was unorganized and they did not stand a chance. Thus she answered the question I did not dare ask: why was she carrying a gun? She looked like a normal young woman; if I had met her in passing on the street, I would never have suspected that she was carrying a gun and spare ammunition in her canvas bag. We came out of the park, by the bus stop. People were walking along the street as if they knew nothing about what had happened only a few kilometers away. We sat down in the shelter and waited for the bus in silence. For once it was on time. That surprised me, because I imagined that the whole town would be snarled up. Even though there were empty seats on the bus, she remained standing, holding her bag close. There was something vulnerable about her, as she stood there alone. Maybe she was as tired and frightened as I was. I wondered what she would do if the bus was stopped at a checkpoint. Let herself be taken alive, or put up a fight and risk both her own life and those of her innocent fellow passengers? Someone was out for blood today, people who would kill without hesitation, without even needing a reason. Perhaps she was weighing up the same possibility in her mind. When the bus stopped just before the aqueduct, she got off without warning. I didn’t have time to say anything to her.
Through the back window, I saw her stop and check the traffic before crossing the road with quick steps. The bus moved off and my last picture of her was as she disappeared between some shops on the other side of the road. She had not even looked in my direction. Maybe she wanted to protect me by ignoring me. I could understand that, though I did feel like a small helpless child that needed to be looked after. The sad thing was that I had not remembered to ask what she was called, or where she lived. But perhaps that was for the best. At least I would avoid any humiliation, or getting the cold shoulder.
All sorts of emotions were bubbling at school, but most obviously sorrow and anger. Most of my friends had gone back to school without having reached the square. A couple of them had ended up in the park and had managed to escape unhurt. But when I failed to reappear, they feared the worst, as, according to the radio and TV, many had been killed and injured. Precisely how many was not yet known. I had to tell them an edited version of what had happened: I had been near Kazanci Hill when the shooting broke out, so I ran down the hill, away from the chaos and ended up by Kabataş Quay. I sat there for a long time gathering my thoughts and then took the bus back to school. When I thought about it later, this version seemed very plausible and anything but made-up. Everyone agreed that I had been lucky as many of the people who had been near Kazancı Hill had been injured or killed. They soon lost interest in me and the conversation moved on to their own experiences.
As supper had already been served and eaten, I managed to sneak away to the dormitory. I was not hungry any way; I wanted nothing more than to lie down on my bed. My body could not take any more, and I fell into a deep, black sleep.
Nothing would ever be the same again. The days of innocence were over for me and my generation. Perhaps it was the fault of the school walls, which had protected us so well from everything that went on outside. I was eleven when I first walked through the green painted gates that had closed behind countless aspiring youths for over a hundred years. Once you passed through the entrance, you belonged to the community that lived within the high walls. There was no point in crying for Mother or Father, you had to find all that you needed in terms of care and knowledge inside those walls.
A century of integrity, authority and tradition. When you are eleven, it is all quite awe-inspiring: the colossal buildings, the libraries, dining rooms, dormitories and not least, the individuals. But after while the buildings and people assume their true proportions. You settle in. Those who do not manage, fall away. You only have one chance. Slowly but surely, you are no longer lonely or poor, but part of the community that so proudly declares on a large banner in front of the gymnasium: “Equal Education for All.” And yet you know that you are one of the few who has managed to pass through the eye of the needle.
Thirty-four killed and hundreds injured. The front pages of the papers were covered in big black headlines and pictures from the square. Bloody May Day. One of the papers had a picture of the huge banner on the front of the Culture Center, which had come loose and was hanging squint. In another paper, a picture of the lifeless bodies lying at the top of Kazancı Hill. A third ran a picture of a young woman with a pistol in her hand. But it was not her. I was pretty sure of that. Between the lines of the conservative papers, behind the false mask of grief, you could detect a thinly disguised glee that “the attempted revolution” had been thwarted. The radical left-wing press was in no doubt that this was provocation, carefully planned and carried out by the Contra guerrillas, an infamous paramilitary organization that had been responsible for political assassinations and torture since the start of the 1970s. Few of the dead had been killed by bullets; most had been trampled to death in the stampede. One of the radical papers carried an unclear picture of shadowy armed figures on the roof of the Water Authority building. But the police were not interested in any such information, their focus was on questioning the demonstrators who had been arrested at the square. Little else was done in the time that followed, and slowly the May Day bloodshed sank into oblivion.
The tragedy shocked me. Largely because I had had no concept of the scale of events when I fled Taksim Square. I felt that I had betrayed someone or something, but I could not say with any conviction whom or what. My spirit was enraged, the murderers had to be punished, preferably in the same manner, a backhanded attack while death waited in the wings. I was not alone. Revenge was mentioned more than once in our heated discussions, but as was generally the case, this passion cooled after a while. We were school pupils; in our hearts of hearts, we were peaceful people who like to play with words, and words were hardly as deadly as bullets. I wandered around restlessly for several days, and every so often thought about how she would assess the situation. But daily routine and looming end-of-term tests helped me to settle down again. I was looking forward to the summer holiday, to a life outside the school, to everything that was exciting and unpredictable. That is the way of youth. Contrary to old age, there is more pleasure in looking forward than back.
I told the whole story only to Semra. Because she would understand, and she was my best friend at school. Our friendship, paradoxically, was highly competitive. It was not easy to compete in the popularity stakes with a girl who had both looks and intelligence on her side. But we never hurt each other intentionally, and perhaps most importantly, we did not envy each other. We could talk and argue about everything and shared our knowledge. The light tone with which I started became darker and darker as the story progressed. I relived for a second time what had happened that day, and all the fear and sorrow returned. My intention was not to impress—I did nothing to embellish my own role in events. In my story there was only one hero: a heroine. She stood firm with a pistol in her hand, shooting at the invisible murderers; she saved me and then vanished, as a real hero should. I did add a few things to the story here and there, had her light a cigarette with steady hands, and honored her with the parting comment, “See you around, Comrade,” as she got off the bus.
“All those dead people, so many injured,” Semra sighed when I had finished. “That young woman, I could never be like her,” she said. She pinched me fondly on the cheek. “And neither could you,” she added.