November 17, 1999

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Last week, for the second time since Aug. 17 -- shortly before the President and I arrived here for a state visit -- a powerful earthquake struck Turkey. During our trip, we have conveyed our sympathy and support to the Turkish people, who are once again finding themselves recovering from a terrible natural disaster.

The news of this latest earthquake hit particularly hard among the survivors of the first quake in Izmit. When my husband, daughter and I visited there Tuesday, many families told us how frightened they were to feel the tremors, a particularly vivid reminder of the 45 seconds of terror they felt just three months before. At 7.4, according to geophysicists at the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center, that quake was one of the most powerful earthquakes in the 20th century, nearly rivaling the 7.9 magnitude temblor that devastated San Francisco in 1906. When the rubble from the tragedy at Izmit was cleared away, 17,000 people had died, 33,000 were injured, and up to 500,000 were left without homes.

It was cold and rainy when we arrived at the Dogukisla tent city that is providing a safe haven for thousands of these victims. But in tent after tent, my husband and I were greeted with hot tea, cookies and warm hospitality.

In the first tent we entered, we met three generations of an extended family. There were 17 people living there. Even though it was adorned with few material possessions -- seven mattresses, a table and chairs, a few rugs -- the room was filled with gratitude and hope. One woman held her baby as she told me that she was thankful -- thankful that her children are back in school, and that she can cook in the tent for them.

In another tent, we met a husband, a wife and their children. The father, a paper factory worker, told us how, after the earthquake, he had been caught in the rubble himself. He woke up in the hospital. But he woke up to the good news that both he and his family were safe.

I talked to parents who told me that their children are still having bad dreams, still scared to go into buildings and back to school. But I also saw the resilience of these young people. In a makeshift kindergarten class, we met children who were playing and singing, like all children should. One boy carried an American flag. Another said, "We want to thank the American children for their support."

It is often after the worst kinds of tragedies that we see the best of humanity. And yesterday, we saw it in the courage of the people of Izmit, and in the generosity of all the governments, relief organizations, businesses and volunteers who have lent them a hand.

The entire world has been moved to action by the images of homes turned to rubble, crying children and shell-shocked families that have emerged from Izmit. Eighty-eight countries, including the United States, have sent relief workers and supplies.

Since August, Americans have contributed more than $14 million in relief in the form of goods, services and economic aid. Days after the quake, search and rescue teams from Fairfax, Va., and Miami-Dade County, Fla., flew in to help find survivors. We have sent water-purification units, medical supplies and expertise, blankets, plastic sheeting, prefabricated houses, and more than 7,000 tents capable of sheltering 100,000 people. And I am proud that our service men and women have helped on the scene -- not only by setting up tents, but also by providing medical care and other critical assistance.

Every single family we talked to on Tuesday was grateful for the support they had received. But the work is not done. The temporary housing shortage must be overcome. Economic life must be restored. And the health and well-being of citizens -- especially children -- must be improved.

But above all else, everyone we met wants the same thing -- to go home and rebuild their lives and communities.

It's up to all of us to make it possible. The friendship between the United States and Turkey has never been stronger. It is a friendship of more than 50 years. It is a friendship that the victims of these earthquakes will be able to count on in the days and months ahead.

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