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West Hall grad survived quake in Chile
Turner works as missionary in Santiago
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West Hall High School graduate Adam Turner, left, has been serving for about a year and half in Santiago, Chile, as a missionary with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other missionaries with him are, from left, Braden Tilley, Kevin Costner and Jeff Stagg. The four live in a house together in the Santiago metro area of Puente Alto.

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SaraEllen Turner, mother of missionary Adam Turner, talks about how the earthquake affected a temple in Chile.
Adam Turner’s mission site: Learn more about this Oakwood man’s mission in Santiago, Chile.

West Hall High School graduate Adam Turner was fast asleep on Feb. 27 when a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Chile.

Working as a missionary in Santiago, Chile, with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was his roommate and fellow missionary Kevin Costner who woke him up.

“And that was when I felt it,” Turner, 20, wrote in an e-mail. “Oh boy was it strong! And the noise was incredible — it was like a roaring jet combined with stampedes and breaking glass.”

The epicenter of the quake was about 200 miles from Santiago, near Concepción, Chile.

Where Turner stays, there was little damage, and no one was seriously injured.

“Compared to Concepción and other parts a little further south, there was not too much structural damage here in Santiago besides a few fallen over concrete walls,” he wrote.

But he and other missionaries had been prepared for an earthquake.

“A week before it happened his leader, or what we call a mission president, he asked his missionaries ... if they were prepared for a possible earthquake,” said Gainesville Councilman George Wangemann, also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “A week later, the actual earthquake hit. Of course they weren’t surprised because they like to think their leaders are what we call ‘inspired’ and sometimes do see inspirations, or as some people would call them, ‘premonitions.’”

According to Turner’s mother, SaraEllen Turner, the mission president’s wife, Lisa Laycock, had such an inspiration.

“She woke up about 4 in the morning wide awake, and she said it wasn’t like she heard a voice, but it was as strong and as clear as if she’d heard a voice and it said, ‘There’s going to be an earthquake and you need to prepare your missionaries,’” SaraEllen Turner said.

The missionaries were told to have a 72-hour emergency pack filled with necessities. Adam Turner said they were given a sheet of paper with instructions of what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

As “zone leaders” Turner and another missionary, Jeff Stagg, instructed the missionaries in the Santiago metro area of Puente Alto to be prepared.

“We took the instructions seriously and urged the others to follow suit and be prepared,” Turner said. “I had never felt an earthquake before, nor did I know what to expect, but we followed the instructions that our leaders felt inspired to give us.”

And that preparation was a godsend for his family, as well.

Turner was able to send his mother word that they were told to prepare for an earthquake.

At about 6:30 a.m. Feb. 27, SaraEllen Turner turned on the news as she exercised in a hotel room while visiting Savannah.

“I was just immediately concerned, but then ... within just seconds, I did, I felt very peaceful in thinking that he was OK, and immediately I thought of the letter that he’d written us,” she said.

They later received confirmation that he was OK.

Since the earthquake hit, the effects have been largely psychological, Adam Turner said.

“It was an eye-opener, and really woke a lot of people up, and has many people worried and scared to death,” he said. TVs, wine collections, homes and more have been damaged, but “if you were to ask any random person on the street here in Santiago right now how he passed the earthquake, the first thing that he would tell you is that his family is safe.”

More have turned to churches of all types since the quake hit, Turner said.

SaraEllen Turner said the churches were also able to serve as a place of refuge as looting became common following the quake.

“Really, my experience taught me some personal lessons of preparedness, obedience and the love and mercy of God,” Adam Turner said. “But my heart is with those people in the more affected parts of Chile. I, personally, did not suffer one thing, but there are many thousands of people without homes, water, electricity and many other basic necessities, and this nation has come together to try and meet those needs.”

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