Run to save yourself or run to protect others? Among the images of devastation we are seeing these days from Turkey and Syria, which were shattered by an earthquake on 6 February, are also some snapshots that tell of gestures capable of kindling a small light in the pitch darkness of this enormous tragedy. That is the case of a group of nurses from a hospital in the Turkish city of Gaziantep who, when the earth began to shake, did not run towards the building’s exits, but went in the opposite direction; towards the intensive care unit where there were prematurely born babies. The nurses stayed there, beside the newborns until the end of the earthquake, keeping still the incubators that risked being overturned and crushing the babies.
Perhaps we would not have found out about this extraordinary act of defence of life if it hadn’t been caught on some of the hospital’s video surveillance cameras. Those nurses did not know how long the earthquake would last, nor how destructive its power would be. They did not know if they would be able to save themselves, by making that choice. They knew for sure however, that if they had not taken action, those tiny newborns would have risked death. And they decided to protect them. Many times, in the ten years of his Pontificate — most recently on his journey to Africa — Francis has reminded us that women give life. Women protect life. Women are a bastion of peace, above all because they know (they know this in a visceral way) that war destroys the life that they generate. Those nurses bore witness precisely to this gentle and steadfast strength of which the Pope speaks. A natural strength that does not seek power but manifests itself as a gift.
The babies saved on that tragic night were not their children. And yet, in some way, they have become their children because they were born for a second time thanks to their courage and their love. In the Talmud, it says: “He who saves a single life, saves the world entire”. Those nurses saved the entire world.