Died in a bus crash: 3 May 1995
Twelve years have passed since Aron was killed. To a parent who has lost a child, time is meaningless. Twelve years are at once a moment and an eternity. Aron will never again embrace the world, so I bring the world to him. I hope that some day it will be a gentler world, a world in which all children will return safely home.
Rochelle Sobel, mother of the victim
On 3 May 1995, my 25-year-old son Aron was killed, along with 22 other passengers, in a bus crash on the Milas Soke Road of Bodrum Izmir Highway in Turkey. Aron was a senior medical student at the University of Maryland in the United States of America. He was completing his medical rotation by volunteering in a hospital abroad. Aron’s graduation was to have taken place two weeks from the day he was killed. His diploma, delivered to our home by the Dean of the Medical School, lies tucked away in the top drawer of Aron’s dresser.
The other victims were people of all ages and all walks of life. Most were Turkish citizens, but there were also a number of passengers from other countries who had come on holiday or business. There were many students and a soon-to-be bride. The police said the driver was speeding recklessly down the wrong lane of a rain-slick, winding, deteriorated two-lane road with no guard rail. He ignored the passengers' requests to slow down. The bus collided head-on with oncoming traffic, careened, then plunged down a deep ravine, landing on its side. The mayor of a nearby town said that the 35-year old narrow road with its “death curve” had been the site of many previous accidents. Although it had been on a government list of dangerous roads for many years, no action had been taken to improve the road.
The crash occurred on the eve of a holiday. Bus companies required their drivers to work overtime and complete more trips to collect more fares. Pre-holiday traffic congestion and an inadequate number of ambulances delayed the arrival of emergency medical care. Distressed and frustrated, nearby villagers pulled the victims out of the wreckage and dragged them up the steep ravine onto the roadside. Bus company officials arrived on the scene and covered the company's name with black paint so that it would not be visible in newspaper photographs.
Among Aron’s effects mailed to me by the American Embassy in Ankara was a camera with undeveloped film. In one of the photos Aron was surrounded by magnificent rocks rising high above him. I call this photo, “Embracing the World”. I cherish it, not only because there will be no new photos of Aron, but also because it captures his essence.
Aron was the epitome of warmth and vitality. He had a way of rubbing his hands together, fairly bursting with excitement, and almost everything filled him with excitement. He intensely believed in family, friendship, learning, integrity and social responsibility. Aron adored his family, his older sister Eve, his younger sister Ana and his brother Michael. His loyalty to his friends was inviolable.
Aron’s sense of social responsibility governed his life. He could not bear to see those about him hurt or in pain. It was for this reason that he chose to study medicine. Superficial things never concerned him. His socks never quite matched, his sneakers aged and tore the moment he purchased them. Somehow those things never mattered. He was far too busy…learning, playing, thinking, dreaming…until the moment when all of his dreams were shattered.
I fought sleep; to sleep would mean to awaken only to be flooded once again by the horrible reality. Night after night I relived the dreadful moments that I had not witnessed. I was overwhelmed with guilt. A parent’s role is to protect; yet I did not protect my son.
Perhaps it was Aron’s sense of justice, his unshakable optimism, and his belief – that if something is wrong we have the moral obligation to fix it – that impelled me forward. Aron used to say, “Mom, we are a team, you and I; together we can fix anything”. I could not allow his childhood illusion to be utterly broken. I could not save my own child; perhaps I could save other mothers’ children. Aron’s dream of saving lives had been destroyed. I would work to save lives in his memory.
The Association for Safe International Road Travel was founded with the support of my talented and loving community in Aron's memory. It is committed to the concept of “One world, one road”, a recognition of our global interconnectedness in the problems and solutions of road safety. It works to protect citizens of and travellers to countries.
Twelve years have passed since Aron was killed. To a parent who has lost a child, time is meaningless. Twelve years are at once a moment and an eternity. Holidays, celebrations, milestones are always tinged with sadness. A word, a song, a mother and a son walking and laughing together bring back a flood of memories and jolts of pain. From each country that I visit, I bring back a stone. I place the stones gently around Aron’s grave. Aron will never again embrace the world, so I bring the world to him. I hope that some day it will be a gentler world, a world in which all children will return safely home.
Rochelle Sobel, mother of the victim