Late in the evening on February 6, local Mohammad Ajmal Nikzad (AJ) received a phone call inquiring if he had contact with his family. 

His mother, along with his siblings were all residing in Kahramanmaras, a city in Turkey, which was among dozens that were rocked by a violent 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck both Turkey and Syria in early February. 

After trying to get through to his family to no avail, he turned on the television. By 5 a.m. in the morning, he saw an interview being broadcast by a local man from the Turkish city saying that many of the residential buildings were damaged or collapsed and that people were unreachable and many were feared dead. 

Nikzad, who has been working in Olds, Alberta for over a decade would call his employer, A Gallery of Floors, and informed them that he wouldn't be able to come to work as he would be travelling overseas to try and locate his family.  

By the time he arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, Nikzad had information that the building in which his mother was living in, had collapsed. Once in Istanbul, he also realized flights inside the country were utterly overwhelmed as people were frantically travelling to rescue family members from the affected regions. He managed to get a flight to a neighbouring city and paid a taxi driver to drive him to Kahramanmara. 

"I was not expecting to see what I saw out there. The taxi driver told me he wouldn't go any further and told me to get out of the car," he said. "I was trying to find the place where my mom was living. The whole city turned into a pile of dust." 

After hours of searching, he came upon the destroyed remains of the apartment building his mother lived in. By a tragic stroke of luck, he also happened upon a man whom he was familiar with. 

"He told me I had to be strong. He said that they had found the body of my 23-year-old sister. I was lost. I was shocked. I was broken." 

His other brother and sister were reportedly found alive and taken to the hospital, but there was no sign of Nikzad's mother. He begged and pleaded with the emergency workers on sight to somehow help, but they told him that with the number of people buried in the rubble, they couldn't focus their efforts on just one person.  

Nikzad said as the hours passed into the next day, he witnessed horrific scenes of bodies strewn in the streets, as families grieved for their loved ones. After visiting different hospitals, he finally found his brother, alive, though in life-threatening condition, with one of his legs amputated.  

"He was under the building for more than 24 hours. I told him to be strong and to try not to worry. But, he was asking about everyone else - saying that mom didn't get out." 

Nikzad's next mission was to find his 19-year-old sister. After walking in frigid winter temperatures from hospital to hospital, he wasn't able to locate her and made his way back to his brother. However, by the time he came back to see him, Nikzad's brother had been transferred to Ankara - Turkey's capital. Not knowing what else to do, he made his way back to the apartment building where he had been desperately looking for his mother.  

"[The people there] said they couldn't find her, but that I had to wait. I was waiting there for four hours and finally, someone told me that they had retrieved a body. When he described the body... I just knew that that was my mom," he said.  

Because of the chaos of the situation, he wasn't able to locate his mother's body for a proper burial and was forced to stay out in the dark until the first hint of sunrise, unable to get any lodging because most hotels were already completely overbooked. After more searches across the city, wading through hundreds of body bags, Nikzad finally believed he found his mother's body and was able to give her a proper burial. Without a moment to grieve, he was forced to continue his search for his remaining relatives, including his teenage sister.  

He would travel to the Turkish city of Kayseri, where he was reunited with her in the hospital. 

"As soon as I walked; I had tears in my eyes. I called her name. She opened her eyes - they were full of dust. She was not able to talk much or move. She just said that she is going to die. I told her, 'No, you're not.'" 

After speaking with the doctors, Nikzad had to face more harrowing news. His sister's kidneys were failing and one leg had already been amputated, with the possibility of another having to be amputated as well. Doctors told him the prognosis was grim. Though his sister's condition is critical, he has found the will to be hopeful that she will survive. However, he said that neither sibling knows of the death of their mother or the other sister. 

"They wouldn't survive that." 

Perhaps one of the cruellest twists of fate that has befallen his family is that this isn't the first time they have faced such horrifying circumstances. 

Nikzad and his family who are originally from Afghanistan had to deal with death threats from the Taliban. His mother, a former high school principal of an all-girls school, would not bend to the will of the Taliban, saying that under her watch she would never abandon her students. 

His father, who would escort Nikzad's mother to and from school each day, was captured by the Taliban and tortured and would later die.  After the death of his father, the family would leave Afghanistan and sought refuge in Turkey.  

Nikzad said he doesn't know how long he will be in Turkey and is trying to appeal to the Canadian government to help him, though he is bitterly disappointed that his calls for help have been unanswered. However, while help from the government has been non-existent in Nikzad's view, help has come in another form. 

Shaun Waite, the President of the Olds business, A Gallery of Floors, has set up a Gofundme campaign for Nikzad.  

"We knew that we needed to do something. We needed to do something for AJ," Waite said. "He's been with us here for about 10 years now and he's been a very, very hardworking man. He's very conscientious about his work. Our customers love him. He's very well respected in the community and very well respected here at work." 

According to Waite any money raised via the GoFundMe campaign will go directly to Nikzad. 

"To help him with the expenses of him dealing with the loss of his family members and the future medical expenses for his brother and sister. Their recovery will be long and will need the years of support that come with losing their limbs," the GoFundMe stated.  

Nikzad currently lives in Calgary with his wife and children.

"His laugh is contagious? He is our family, his family is our family. He is the lone supporter of his family in Calgary, and his family in Turkey."

Thus far the fundraiser has amassed nearly $5,000. 

It is estimated that over 41,000 people have died as a result of the earthquake.  

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