At 9:17 local time, on Monday September 20th, 2021, the quiet village of Arkalochori in Crete’s heartland was shook to pieces by a shallow magnitude 6.0 earthquake. The experts say the Arkalochori earthquake was atypical and surprising. For the citizens of our peaceful town, it continues to be a waking nightmare. Here are a few thoughts, from the soul of Crete.
I sleep each night, afraid to wake up to this new reality! I wish I would arise to discover it’s all a lie! I want this to stop, I cannot stand it!
To be unable to see your home, your things, relatives, friends’ houses, the houses of the entire village – it’s absurd, it cannot be true. Here, people have lost everything. Homes, shops, property, or even a handkerchief to cry into. Here they all stand in an encampment, as if airbrushed in, hungry, but still helping other people. I am so proud of them, my countrymen, and foreigners, but especially my kin folk, the new heroes of our town. They make me feel small in the shadow of their courage.
It is so tragic to see seniors in tents without drugs, babies without necessities, and mothers in despair, fearful, in disbelief. The soul can’t stand it! My people driven from their homes, a prosperous people, now found eating at the soup kitchen. But, there is no shame, it’s just that its all unbelievable. Something one never would have expected. The food that is arriving now is plenty, but the Cretan winter will be long. My people will need all their strength and courage to prevail.
Recollecting the first day, I didn’t make it into my village. There were bulldozers and loaders everywhere to pick up haul the debris. But, Yesterday when I did enter, I was driving without looking right and left! I couldn’t bear to lift my eyes and face the damaged image of my village. I felt as if I were in a vivid nightmare.
Now, we all need optimism and strength, incredible strength to manage to stand up again. But my neighbors will stand again, I’m sure of that. With faith and by our will, everything will be as it was. I personally vow to do everything possible, everything in my power. I’m sure everyone in Arkalochori will do the same, and our village will soon take life again! This is the way, as long as there are people who worship their place, as long as we have each other, we should never fear anything.
And know this, I admire you all
Editor’s note: Kallia Merkoulidi lives in Heraklion now, but her father Nikos, and mother Maria were at home when the quake struck. They were unharmed, but many were injured, and one man died when an old chapel collapsed on top of him. Here in Heraklion we watched that day as emergency and military vehicles sped past on the way to Arkalochori. And a line of cars headed that way, since many people in Crete’s capital have their roots in the quaint villages in the countryside.
For those unfamiliar, villages like Arkalochori are the heartbeat of this island. Almost everyone in the capitol of Heraklion has relatives or friends in this famous village. All of Crete is on pins and needles now, as continuous aftershocks rattle the center of the island. Our hearts and efforts go out to the people in the village, many of whom are now in an encampment made by Greece’s military. Over 1,000 stone buildings near Arkalochori have now been deemed uninhabitable because of the quakes.