In early 2023, Sedat Paşa Ögretmen’s outlook was optimistic. He had a job as a teacher, three homes, and a good car. But that was before the earthquake ripped across southeastern Turkey last February. A little more than a year later, only some parts of the loss can be measured. The 48-year-old says his three homes were badly damaged and had to be demolished. His car remains stuck under the uncleared rubble of collapsed buildings. Worse still, he lost 163 relatives, friends, and students.
Yet, as with all tragedies, the numbers only speak to a fraction of the pain. Now living at his grandfather’s house, he remembers the details of the day that shattered the world around him. In the days after the quake hit, he joined a team of volunteers rushing to help. They pulled people from the wreckage. They brought food to those without any. They gathered clothes for those who lost theirs. They raised money for those who needed it. “There is nothing more painful than having to pull one’s loved ones out of the rubble,” he said.
Amid the economic destruction the earthquake wrought, the rich have left the area to wait out reconstruction, Ögretmen explained. “Those who stay here are those who are not well-off and those who help and volunteer.”