A powerful earthquake struck Turkey (officially the Republic of Türkiye), Syria and the surrounding region on Monday, killing thousands of people and leaving some members of the George Washington University community scrambling to learn about the safety of their loved ones. An aftershock almost equally powerful rocked the affected area after the initial quake.
Can Korman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science whose parents are from Turkey, said the disaster has caused great concern in the Turkish-American community.
“The earthquakes in Turkey have been the strongest on record over the past century, and the devastation has impacted 10 cities,” Korman said. “This widespread tragedy has been very tough on the Turkish-American community in GW and the larger D.C. metropolitan area. All of us have friends or family who are part of the impacted region.”
GW has about 77 students from Turkey and Syria.
Berk Gorgen, a junior finance major with a minor in computer science, is president of GW’s Turkish Student Association (TSA). The organization is prepared to help those affected by the disaster in any way it can.
“We have close contact with the embassy, just in case any of our members or any relatives of our members are in the danger area,” Gorgen said. “We can try to organize assistance and provide moral support.”
Some of Gorgen’s family members live close to the affected area, he said, but he has talked with them, and they are safe. Turkey is used to earthquakes, he added, but quakes this disastrous haven’t occurred in years.
“Turkey was the center of the earthquake,” Gorgen said, “and other areas in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt were also affected. The news footage has been really depressing. I would suggest that we as a community stay strong. People in the affected area need our support, and they need utilities such as jackets and sleeping bags, because they can’t go back to their houses. With even small donations, we can do something for them.”
Because of winter weather in the affected area, there is an urgent need for blankets, sleeping bags, winter clothing and other goods. The students are organizing a drive seeking donations of these and other items such as cold and flu medicines. Donations will be accepted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on February 8, 9 and 10, at Kogan Plaza.
Gorgen said he was grateful for stray bits of good news emerging from news accounts of the disaster.
“There was a 5-year-old girl stuck in building debris for 17 hours who got out alive,” Gorgen said. “It’s really heartwarming to see a little girl staying strong. She received the help she needed, which really made my day.”
GW President Mark S. Wrighton has been following the distressing news stories about the earthquakes.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation in Turkey and Syria, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families,” Wrighton said. “The university is providing various resources to members of our community affected by this tragedy, and I also ask our students, faculty and staff to reach out to those who may need additional support at this difficult time.”
In a letter sent to students, Colette Coleman, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, echoed the president’s remarks.
“Our hearts go out to the communities and families affected by this natural disaster,” Coleman wrote. “The GW team is ready to assist if you are in need of additional support during this time. Please know that our thoughts are with you and your families, and that we are here to provide support in any way we can.”
Counseling & Psychological Services
Over the next few weeks, you may experience a number of reactions in the aftermath of the earthquake. Having a reaction is both normal and expected. Sometimes emotional aftershocks or stress reactions appear immediately and some may appear in a few hours or several days or weeks after. If and when this happens, we encourage you to reach out to talk to someone. It may be helpful to talk to someone not also experiencing what you just experienced.
Our mental health professionals are available to speak to GW students and can consult with faculty, staff or parents about any mental health-related concerns, if desired. Counseling & Psychological Services is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 202-994-5300.
AcademicLiveCare is a new platform that complements the services provided through the Student Health Center. It is a new, separate service that virtually connects students to available clinicians at their convenience using a smartphone, tablet or computer. More details about how the program works are on the Health Center website.
We encourage all students, faculty, staff and families who may be concerned about a student in need of additional support to reach out to the university’s CARE Team. Sometimes students don’t realize that they need help or may be afraid to ask. The CARE Team can help break down any perceived barriers to accessing campus support services.
If you or someone you know has been personally affected by the earthquake, please submit a CARE Referral. For more information, please contact the CARE Team at 202-994-6555 or [email protected].
If you face any academic difficulty as you continue with your spring 2023 classes, we encourage you to talk with your professors for extensions or incompletes and work with your academic advisor for documentation and support. The CARE Team is also here to guide students who are experiencing academic challenges.
If your financial circumstances have changed, we encourage you to speak to a representative from Student Financial Assistance for options regarding adjustments to your financial aid. Student Financial Assistance can be reached by phone at 202- 994-6620, email at [email protected], or by scheduling an online appointment.
Graduate students seeking financial assistance can review additional information here.
Students enrolled in GW Law should contact their school’s Financial Aid Office for more information.
Students enrolled in the M.D. program in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences should contact their program's Financial Aid Office for more information.