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Georgia family, church mourns 4 children killed in earthquake


MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)–Four of the five children of a Georgia Baptist woman were buried Aug. 27 near their hometown of Marietta, Ga., 10 days after they were killed in the earthquake that devastated western Turkey.
Jan Kilic and her husband, Babur “Bobby” Kilic, buried both their two oldest and two youngest children during a private family service at Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Atlanta. Later, more than 800 mourners attended the memorial service held at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Sandy Springs, a neighborhood northwest of Atlanta, where Jan Kilic and her children attended faithfully. Jan has been a member of the church for six years.
The Kilics were on vacation with grandparents Nizam and Turkan Kilic, both retired physicians from the Atlanta area, who had a second home in the resort city of Yalova, Turkey, 90 miles southwest of Istanbul. Jan’s husband, Bobby Kilic, an anesthesiologist at Wellstar-Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, was hoping to join his family the weekend of Aug. 20 for the rest of the vacation. Instead, he had to leave that weekend to make funeral arrangements for his father and four of his children, as well as hospitalization for his injured wife and mother. The Kilics’ surviving child, 3-and-a-half-year-old Natalie, suffered only one black eye after being trapped in rubble for 36 hours.
Jan Kilic, who is still recovering in the hospital from injuries to her head, neck and back, arrived at the church by ambulance. Her husband brought her into the sanctuary in a wheelchair.
The grandmother, in critical condition due to internal and head injuries, could not attend. Baptist Press learned Aug. 30 that she died Aug. 29.
Sam Boyd, senior pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, preached on “Purpose in Tragedy” in the funeral sermon. While God is drawing his people unto himself, Boyd said, “he molds us into his likeness,” often using circumstances “to accomplish his purposes.” During his prayer, he asked God to “give us understanding and give us hope.” He was unavailable for comment following the funeral and his weekend responsibilities.
Each child was eulogized separately during the service by either a family member or a teacher, as enlarged photographs of each child stood in frames on the communion table, wreathed by flowers.
Jeffrey was only 6, yet his father called him “remarkable” and “a thoughtful, kind and caring young man” whose brother and sisters “absolutely adored and idolized him,” Kilic said in a tribute he wrote, but had read by teacher Donna Bielli. “Jeffrey was sensitive, fair, respectful, self-confident, helpful and supremely happy,” Kilic also wrote, later stating Jeffrey “was becoming my best friend — someone I could really talk to.” He described his and his wife’s memories of Jeffrey as “overwhelmingly joyful” and hoped that he would never forget his son’s smile, which “will always be there to warm our hearts.”
Jennifer, age 5, was remembered by her teacher, Laurie Judson, as a little girl with a “loving spirit” who “strived to do her best.”
Jan’s father, Bill Kemp of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., read a poignant “Letter to David from GrandPop” in memory of the 2-year-old, speaking some words of advice for the toddler as he and his brother and sisters now “play and run on the golden streets and fields of heaven.” He urged David to “be careful as you race through heaven on your little hot-wheel trike,” and to “be sure to let the angels know that you usually keep you hair short in a buzz.” He said the family cats, Fred and Ethel, “have been wandering the house crying and looking for all of you.”
The youngest, nine-month-old Katie, was remembered by a family friend, Elba Silva, who said Katie was “full of tenderness and tranquility” and had a “joyous laugh.”
During his sermon Aug. 22, Boyd said “God moves in a miraculous way, or situations change and the tragedy somehow dissipates. Tragedy is a part of this life.” He urged the Kilics and the congregation “[not to] lose sight of the fact that God is involved in the process of tragedy” and that “God uses those breaking, tragic experiences in life and the experiences of other people’s lives to wake us up, to bring us more into his image.”
Adding to the family’s grief before their return to the United States was the frustration they experienced in trying to get official documents needed to get the children’s bodies back to Georgia for burial, according to Jan Kilic’s father, who wrote about the situation in an Aug. 26 letter to the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Concerning that situation, Boyd, in his Aug. 22 sermon, quoted Jan Kilic as stating, “Those bodies are not my children. They’re not my babies, because my children are in the arms of Jesus.”
Jan Kilic had taken her children to Turkey with their paternal grandparents “to encourage her children to celebrate their Turkish culture,” Jan’s brother, Billy Kemp, was quoted as saying in USA Today Aug. 20. They were staying in her in-laws’ second home in a five-story condominium, which collapsed during the earthquake. The Associated Press has reported the four Kilic children were the only Americans known to have died in the earthquake, during which at least 14,000 people were killed. Many thousands are still reported missing, and up to 600,00 are reported homeless, as chilly autumn weather approaches the country.