A series of text messages were blowing up sophomore tennis player Miray Konar’s phone on the evening of Feb. 6. The texts were coming from Konar’s friend in Lebanon, asking if her family in Turkey was safe. Konar, who was unaware that an earthquake hit her home country, was hearing the news for the first time. 

“I got shocked,“ Konar said. “I couldn't move. I couldn't react and I just panicked and I remember I screamed.”

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through Turkey and Syria, resulting in the death poll passing 40,000 people, according to Reuters on Feb. 14. Konar, who is from Izmir, Turkey, said hearing about the earthquake was incredibly frightening. 

“I checked my phone and I saw that the earthquake was in Turkey, but it wasn't giving the specific city,” Konar said. “My hometown is an earthquake center, so it was one of the possibilities that it was in Izmir. It was really scary.. I couldn't sleep that night.”

Konar eventually found out that the center of the earthquake was in Gaziantep, almost seven hundred miles from her hometown. When she realized that her family would be safe, she said she felt a weight lifted off of her shoulders. 

“I got relieved, but after 10 minutes, I saw the news about how big and awful it was. The city looked like it was bombed,” Konar said. 

The earthquake hitting Konar’s home country came at a challenging time — the beginning of the 2023 women’s tennis season. Despite the challenging and scary moments she’s faced, the recent event is pushing her to work harder and persevere. 

“Some people waited for days under the rubble without drinking water and without eating anything,” Konar said. “I watch their stories and I read their stories and it's so inspiring. I'm going to take that nothing is impossible, because they believe that they're going to survive and they believe that someone is going to find them.”

Konar transferred to Elon this year and has studied in the U.S since she completed high school in Turkey. She started playing tennis at eight years old, competing in international tournaments all around the world. Initially, she said leaving her home country was tough for her, especially during the first few years.

“It was really tough for me to stay away from my family,” Konar said. “I live with my family in Turkey and it was so far away from my comfort zone.”

Konar said she could have never predicted that she would be away from her family during a tragic time. Head coach Elizabeth Anderson said it’s been hard watching Konar go through a period of uncertainty.

“It's absolutely awful. It’s such a tragedy and our hearts go out to them,” Anderson said. “Seeing it, seeing Miray, it took her a little while to be able to catch up with her family, and I think dealing with all of that it's just incredibly difficult.”

Anderson praised Konar for her abilities on and off the court and said her resilience throughout this period has been powerful to watch.

“I definitely think she's an inspiration in the way that she's handled this with so much courage and resilience,” Anderson said. “Her teammates already respected her tremendously, but I think after all of this too, when they’re around, they’re able to hear stories and have conversations as things are unfolding more in the news.”

Konar has also taken to spreading the word about Turkey throughout the Elon community. She is partnering with the American Turkish Association, supporting and raising funds for earthquake relief. Anderson said watching her support this cause has been inspirational for her as a coach.

“To see the strength that she's shown in these really difficult times, and she's really been trying to get the word out here to you know, to help her fellow citizens and to really make a difference,” Anderson said. “I feel like in those really, really dark awful times, you see the people that are helping and you see those people that are trying hard to make a difference, and I feel like Miray is one of those people.”

Konar said the biggest takeaway from her will be to live her life the way that she wants to.

“Living the life that you want because life is so short,” Konar said. “So I'm going to take that do it now mentality. Don't plan it, but say something and do something.”

If you want to donate or get involved to help the alleviate the earthquakes in Turkey, visit the American Turkish Association of North Carolina.