Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Earthquake Town

On the way back to Yerevan on Tuesday afternoon, we drove through Spitak, epicenter of the 1988 earthquake that leveled huge portions of central northwest Armenia. The earthquake occurred in the morning. Many people were at work. Students were in school buildings. The earthquake destroyed countless buildings, burying their inhabitants. It killed more than 25,000 people.

Foreign assistance helped rebuild Spitak. As you drive through the town, you see that one of the best-kept and newest cities in Armenia has emerged from the tragedy.

We stopped at a church built in the Armenian traditional style, with one exception. Draped in uncharacteristic steel siding, the church was erected in about 45 days. The accelerated timetable was necessary to accommodate the thousands of funerals for Spitak's earthquake dead. Surrounding the church are tombstones in the traditional Soviet style, with pictures of the deceased etched into the stone (a feature now seen widely in Los Angeles, for example at the Hollywood Forever cemetery in CD13). The church is now abandoned, with a rusty lock that looks like it hasn't been opened in years. Like much of Armenia, Spitak would rather look to the future than back at the sadness of its past.