KSU professors’ families affected by Turkey-Syria Earthquake

Erin Sullivan, TV2 Reporter

Savana Capp, Reporter

Almost 6,000 miles away, the Kent community reflects in the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake near the Turkish-Syrian border.

The earthquake struck the region on Feb. 6 and has since killed more than 33,000 people.

Professor of English Ayham Abuzeid is from Aleppo, Syria, a region that was hit particularly hard by the earthquake.

Abuzeid has a big family in Syria. None were injured physically, but they are all dealing with trauma and reliving the moments of panic.

“Even those who were not affected physically or financially, they are messed up mentally – traumatized,” Abuzeid said.

The earthquake has exacerbated already difficult circumstances in the country including an ongoing civil war.

“The positive thing is that this has brought people together,” Abuzeid said.

Abuzeid said he often misses his family and life in Syria.

“It’s weird, sometimes I feel like I wish I was there to be with my mom, my dad, my brothers, my family, to hug them,” Abuzeid said. “At the same time I feel like maybe it’s meant to be that I’m here.”

Many of his friends, colleagues, students and neighbors have reached out to check in since the earthquake. One of the students he had from 14 years ago even made a donation.

“These things make you feel like no matter how bad things can be there are things that give you light, give you hope, remind you that humanity can be better,” Abuzeid said.

Abuzeid is grateful for the support he’s received from the community and feels refreshed that people care. He said he will continue communicating with people and checking in to make sure they know they are not alone.

“Yes, we are far away but we are thinking about them, they are in our prayers,” Abuzeid said.

Professor Evren Koptur for the College of Aeronautics and Engineering was born in Turkey and lived there until 2003.

Koptur moved to the United States to pursue his master’s and doctoral degrees at Kent and has been teaching here for 20 years.

He said people may not grasp the reality of the disaster so far away.

“People watch these things on the news and they don’t really understand the reality behind it,” Koptur said.

He and his wife, also from Turkey, visit the country almost every summer. Their family is from the Western part of Turkey and have felt minimal impact from the earthquake, but Koptur said he lost a few close friends from high school and college.

“There’s still some I cannot get a hold of,” Koptur said. “I’m hoping it’s because of those communication issues in that area because power is down, everything is down.”

Koptur said he struggles to deal with the emotional impacts of the news, but he is working to continue teaching full-time while also helping his country.

“I think we don’t really appreciate what we have in this life,” he said. “Unfortunately these times show us that we worry too much about little things in this life.”

Koptur is a board member of the Turkish American Society of Northeastern Ohio. They are organizing a clothing drive to support victims of the earthquake.

Members of the community can help by donating items such as tents, sleeping bags, winter coats and pants, portable heaters, medical supplies and more.

The organization is accepting donations at many different locations in Northeast Ohio, but students on Kent campus can drop off their donations at the College of Aeronautics and Engineering in ATB Advising 127.

“Time is of the essence,” Koptur said. “Any kind of help is appreciated.”

It packed and sent its first batch of donations Wednesday night and its second shipment will go out Feb. 17.

Koptur found some comfort in organizing the drive, but the toll of the earthquake still weighs on him today.

“I’m trying to be as strong as I can be,” Koptur said.

Savana Capp is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].