In the second row of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Ayhan Mutlucu sat in silence after 11 a.m. Mass.
She had the seen TV reports that U.S. tourist Sarai Sierra was
dead, apparently murdered after disappearing two weeks earlier in a
This news, combined with continued reports surrounding the Feb. 1 attack
on the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, made praying
especially important, Mutlucu told.
Mutlucu expressed concern that Americans were thinking Turkey was "very bad."
"But (in) all countries in the world there are some places dangerous ...
we must pray," said Mutlucu, whose only son works and lives in the
Circumstances surrounding Sierra's death in Istanbul and the suicide
bombing on the U.S. mission in Ankara filled newspaper headlines and
news bulletins across Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country of about 75
The body of 33-year-old Sierra, a New York mother of two, was found
bludgeoned, half-naked and near a blanket at the foot of an ancient
Byzantine wall in Istanbul Feb. 2, according to the local media, which
reported several suspects were arrested.
The Feb. 1 attack on the U.S. mission in Ankara killed Turkish security
guard Mustafa Akarsu as well as the bomber, Ecevit Sanli, whom Turkish
press say was the member of an ultra-leftist, anti-American terrorist
group. A Turkish journalist, Didem Tuncay, was critically injured in the
blast as she was entering the embassy to meet with U.S. Ambassador
Francis J. Ricciardone, media reported.
The evening of Feb. 3, there were more worshippers than usual at The
Nativity of the Virgin Mary, a Catholic Church not far from Istanbul's
U.S. Consulate. Among those praying was regular Jane McGonagle, a school
teacher originally from Quincy, Mass., who said that after "a midlife
crisis" six months ago, she had come to work and live in Turkey. She
said her Internet was down and she had not heard of the death of the
tourist, but learned of the suicide attack on the U.S. Embassy soon
after it had occurred because the private Istanbul school where she
teaches went into lock-down mode.
"I don't feel frightened but I understand (that) when you are home in
the States and hear about some kind of attacks in a country, you become
alarmed," said McGonagle, who said she had no plans to leave before her
two-year contract ended and was enjoying learning about Islam from
Near Sts. Peter and Paul, American Anne Dammarell and her sister ended
their first day of touring Turkey with a late dinner of chicken and lamb
kebabs at a restaurant serving traditional Turkish food. They had heard
of the Ankara attack while in Bangkok, where they are teaching in a
program run by the U.S. Catholic Maryknoll order.
"It's a lifetime process of pain for people" who lose loved ones, said
Dammarell, who survived the 1983 suicide bombing on the U.S. Embassy in
Beirut, Lebanon, which killed more than 60 people. She said she broke 19
bones and needed "three years of repeated operations" in order to
physically recover from it.
"Every bombing is horrible. The cost is so large because the agony never
ends for those involved," added her sister, Elizabeth Simon, who said
she was not afraid in Turkey, even after the attack and Sierra's death
"since Anne has been through what she's been through."
"But I am not fatalistic and I do know ... that attacks can kill," she said.
On Feb. 5, the sisters visited the Gregorian Armenian Orthodox Church of
the Three Altars, where Sierra's body was awaiting repatriation to the
"Elizabeth wants to say a little prayer for her," said Dammarell, who watched.
Izzet Taskiran was one of several Turkish journalists reporting from outside the ancient church's stone entrance.
"Turkish people are very sad, and very hurt," he said, upon seeing the American visitors.