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News > Pan-Armenian News > Twenty years after the 1988 earthquake

Liturgy for the earthquake victimsMuch Done; Much Left to be Done
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, the California Courier
08 December 2008
I am in Armenia at the invitation of the Prime Minister to participate in the special commemorations marking the 20th anniversary of the Armenian earthquake.

It is hard to believe that 20 years have passed since that tragic day when the world learned the horrifying news that a major natural disaster had struck Armenia. How much more suffering could a nation endure that has already experienced so much tragedy throughout its history?

Precisely at 11:41 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1988, a devastating earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter scale shook the land, reducing to rubble 21 cities and 365 villages, and leaving over half a million people homeless in the Northern part of the country.

How many Armenians perished on that fateful day? The most commonly mentioned figure of 25,000 seriously underestimated the actual death toll. Tens of thousands of Armenian refugees, escaping from Azerbaijan due to the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict, had settled in Northern Armenia prior to the earthquake. It is not known how many of them died along with local inhabitants.

The whole world rushed to the rescue. Aid flowed to Armenia from more than 100 countries. Countless organizations and individuals, Armenian and non-Armenian alike, delivered humanitarian supplies and carried out reconstruction. Some continue to this day.

I vividly recall the first anniversary of the earthquake when a cargo plane from Los Angeles, chartered by the United Armenian Fund (UAF) --an unprecedented coalition of seven major Armenian-American charitable and religious organizations -- landed in Yerevan with 30 tons of relief supplies and a small group of volunteers.

We trucked the supplies to three villages in the hills above Spitak, the epicenter of the earthquake, and distributed the food packages and warm clothing to hundreds of freezing families who were huddled under tents, amid several feet of snow.

Nothing compares to the heartwarming feeling one gets from handing over vitally needed supplies directly to destitute men, women and children and seeing tears of gratitude in their eyes. With every box, we were delivering to these families a message of hope and encouragement, letting them know that they were not abandoned to their fate and that Armenians from around the world cared for them and shared their pain. The UAF is faithfully continuing its assistance to this day, having delivered since the earthquake over $550 million of aid on board 150 airlifts and 1550 sea containers.

On December 7, 2008, thousands gathered in cities throughout the world to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Armenian earthquake. The most noteworthy commemoration took place in the earthquake zone itself.
Pres. Serzh Sargsyan, His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, high ranking clergymen, government officials, and foreign dignitaries gathered in the appropriately named Sourp Yot Verk  Yegeghetsi (Church of Seven Wounds) in Gumri, to mark this cataclysmic event.

At precisely 11:41 a.m., a moment of silence was observed. It was an emotionally charged experience to be standing at the spot where the earth shook with such devastating effect 20 years ago. After the memorial service, an impressive monument by renowned sculptor Fredrich Sogoyan was unveiled in the center of Gumri.

Pres. Sargsyan delivered the keynote speech during which he reiterated his campaign promise to provide housing by the year 2013 to several thousand families in the earthquake zone who are still without proper shelter. Certainly, much good work has been carried out in the devastated region by the Republic of Armenia, scores of countries, international organizations, charities and benefactors. But twenty years is much too long to have people still living in containers and temporary shelters. And 2013 adds another 5 years to their miserable existence. Urgent action must be taken to house these long-suffering people as quickly as possible. The residents of Gumri and other surrounding cities should be provided housing, schools and jobs so they can finally live normally.

The Armenian government should be commended for organizing a most fitting 20th anniversary commemoration. However, in view of the international outpouring of support during the earthquake, a special effort should have been made to invite and honor many prominent individuals from around the world, such as French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and the son and grandson of Pres. George H. W. Bush, who had rushed to Armenia immediately after the earthquake to aid the victims. Armenia had only invited a handful of high-ranking officials from the former Soviet Union, notably, former Prime Minister of the USSR Nicolai Ryzhkov who was honored with the medal of National Hero, and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich who had a street in Spitak named after him.

Photo: Special church liturgy at the Yot Verq (Seven Wounds) Church in Gumri (07 December 2008, Photolur)

Posted on Monday, December 08, 2008 (7844 reads), comments: 3
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Posted by Sevag on Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Why it was not marked in UAE?

Where are the Azkayin Vartchoutyoun (AV) and Temagans? What are they doing? What is happening in this community? How they can miss this important date? Are they only made to show off at the barahanteses? Where are we heading at?

At the latest telethone for helping Armenia, all the communities of the world participated with sometimes larger or symbolic donations. Zero from our side. The symbolic a dollar a day would have been enough!!

Why there is a very visible ignorance against Armenia? Why very important dates are not marked?

Are members of AV and Temagan Armenians or not? Why this ignorance? Where are we heading at?

People want to know both from AV and Temagans, as leaders, what are their plans or what are they doing with the daily Armenian school project, organizing the youth, keeping our children Armenian, promoting Armenia and Armenians, helping Armenia?

Even on the church side, is 10 people attendance of church services ok? Where are the cultural events?

We do not need events organized only for the sake of doing something, with no purpose!

If there are no answers to people's questions and worries, it means that we have elected the wrong people as leaders, which very clearly means that both Azkayin Vartchoutyoun and Temagan should immediatly resign and new elections be held!

Posted by Lian on Monday, December 15, 2008

Dear Armenians. 20 years has passed since the 1988 earthquake in Giumri and the Government is still not able to restore the damage. 480 people still live in bad and awful conditions.

I was very glad to see that the director of a mobile company with the help of Armenia Shant TV presented 20 houses to the poor families, who had lost their houses in 1988. It was something great for all of us. Now I think that every human can help such families, not with promises only that can be easily forgotten.

Lian from Armenia

Posted by 2nd Sevag on Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do you think we are different Armenians? 

A new Sevag has appeared out of nowhere. He is signing as “2nd Sevag”. His ideas are equally challenging. He is accusing Azkayin Varchoutyoun for being non-creative and bad copier. He is saying that time has come for them to GO (actually by regulation they cannot stay more than February 2009). Temagan can enjoy longer time although they were elected by only 5% of the vote of the Armenians who physically live in the UAE (but this is another sad and shameful story). Let us read what the so-called 2nd Sevag has to say.

I really agree what our friend is pointing out and I believe AV (Azkayin Varchoutyoun) either they miss this important days or we are different Armenians.

I was really proud, while I could show to my children's the donations starting from US$ 3 to US$ 15,000,000 in Armenian Telethon, but I was very sad, because I could not see any participant from this community.

I was very  proud  when I heard  Armenia's  men's  chess  team took the gold  in  the World Chess Olympiad, but I could not understand what is the difference between the World Football Cup, which was broadcast live in Armenian Keusseyan hall and not the World Chess Olympiad (the cost of fixing Armenian TV in the hall is only AED 250).

I was very happy when I heard  AV has been organizing the table tennis, but from the other hand, with regret I can say, if AV members  and Temagan  members  cannot see or realize that this event 10 years ago was organized  by Armenian youth with better levels, really they cannot realize that copying will not work. They should be creators and if they cannot it is high time to Go. They are really responsible for all what is happening to our youth And children.

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