OPINION: Istanbul, I have and always will have a special place in my heart for you
Istanbul, as far as travel goes, is my first love. I was first introduced to the city that straddles Europe and Asia by my high school history teacher as old Constantinople (the centre of the world) and visited it for the first time when I was 16 as part of a school trip. The attraction was instant. Therefore when I woke up this morning to news of yet another terror attack overnight - at least 36 people killed, 147 wounded during a triple suicide bomb and gun attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport - I felt personally aggrieved.
Facebook notified me that at least eight of my friends had been marked safe, but my husband, who I met in Istanbul, noted that we both know many others who pass through Ataturk International Airport on an almost daily basis. I have lost count of how many times I have landed, checked-in and sat waiting in transit at the Burger King upstairs. Many Capetonians were in transit last night when the attacks happened. Colleagues and countless others have remarked how they had loved ones who'd passed through recently or were planning trips there in the future, taking advantage of the visa-free travel allowed for South African citizens.
After my first visit to Istanbul with 14 other learners and five teachers in 1998, I longed to go back as soon as possible thereafter. Cape Town suddenly felt too small. I somehow needed the hustle of a big city. The first opportunity that presented itself was after graduating in March 2002. A good friend, who's now the editor of a popular Cape Town daily newspaper and married to a Turk, had been teaching there at the time and encouraged me to do the same.
It didn't take much convincing. The daily interaction with Turks, who as someone so aptly put it to me in a bar at the time, can be as calm as the Mediterranean Sea, but as passionate as the Atlantic is choppy. No in-between - passionate.
Turks are extremely warm and generous. My first landlady mothered me to the point of doing my laundry and constantly made sure I was eating enough - even threatened to call my mother to let her know I was looking too thin.
I later went on to work for an Istanbul-based media company and fatefully met my Belgian husband. He was passing through Istanbul between assignments at the time and as he was leaving dinner with the corporate authorities in Istanbul's famed Balik Pasaj I happened to walk past. I was introduced to him as someone starting the next day. We spent two years flying in and out of Istanbul and together, separately and with our two young children we have walked the halls of Turkey's biggest airport countless times.
Much has been said about Brexit and a trend against globilisation in the last few days, but in tragedy I'm once again reminded of not only how small, but connected the world is. I was reminded of covering the aftermath of the Paris attacks when speaking to an American friend, married to a Turk, this morning.
I'd interviewed someone in Paris whose life was saved when he left the Bataclan concert hall for a smoke and wasn't inside when the carnage unfolded. My friend, this morning, spoke in disbelief that her brother-in-law was who works at a café in the terminal building was saved by a smoke break too, but tragically lost several friends.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the overnight attack, but Isis and Kurdish militants have claimed responsibility for other terror attacks in the past year.
There've been at least a dozen in Turkey over the past year. Sadly, there's no certainty this will be the last. Istanbul, canim, I have and always will have a special place in my heart for you. Seni seviyorum. Leanne de Bassompierre is a news anchor and deputy news editor at Eyewitness News.
Leanne de Bassompierre is a news anchor and deputy news editor at Eyewitness News.