The Quake. December 7th, 1988-2007

It seemed, as though a gigantic helicopter is trying to lift our school and take it somewhere. The sounds felt exactly like that, and the jerking and lap-dancing of the walls felt exactly like that. The teacher of Armenian asked us to stay quiet for a moment, then she opened the door of the classroom, looked out at something and told us: take hands children, and follow me. The obedient rows of Soviet-trained children followed the teacher into the corridor, to clash into a running screaming river of children and teachers. By now everybody had understood its an earthquake. “Zhazhq e, pakheq!!!” (“It’s an earthquake, run…”) was heard from everywhere. Cracks appeared on the walls, stones started falling. Someone fell, and the rest of the running crowd, consisting of children of all ages and teachers stampeded them…
…a teacher threw me out of the window of the third floor. The teacher of Physical education caught me safely, put me on the ground and said: “Are you OK?”, and without expecting an answer, turned back to catch another child thrown out of the window. “Where’s my sister?”, I asked to nobody. “Where’s my coat?”, I asked to that nobody again, feeling the shivering cold.
“Are you OK?”, asked the PE teacher to yet another child he caught, and turned to us with tired eyes: “Run home, kids, maybe you’ll find your parents?”

I can’t believe 19 years have passed. It is all still so vivid in my mind. …and so much in Gyumri still reminds of the Quake.
I still hate Soviet constructed buildings and avoid 9+ storied buildings if I can. I found my sister – coming out of the school’s front door in an orderly row, with other first-graders, led by teachers. The little ones weren’t even frightened, the teachers were so well organized. I never found the teacher of the Physical education who saved so many lives that day, catching kids one after another, and another and another… was a regular Gyumri guy, one of many, who only thought about saving lives, turning into regular heroes, who remained nameless and unknown.

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. […] the 19th Anniversary of the 1988 Armenian Earthquake, The Armenian Observer recalls the day of the quake when he was at school in his native Gyumri. Share […]

  2. Thank you for sharing your memories of the earthquake. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to Spitak on Friday this year, but my thoughts were there, with all my friends and the people I know in Spitak whose lives were literally turned upside down in those few minutes. The stories and memories they have told me over the years will stay with me.

  3. Thank you share 🙂

Comments are closed.