‘Memory collectors’ seek private items under rubble
Following the end of the rescue operation to save injured people from the destroyed buildings in the western province of İzmir, the teams are now on the search to collect the personal belongings of the earthquake victims to safely return them to their rightful owners in an effort to keep the sentimental value alive.
Officials consisting of Turkish Red Crescent and municipal employees, called “memory collectors,” have been working to carefully collect and sort personal items, including photo albums, toys, clothes, phones, letters and even war medals.
Being aware of the burden on their shoulders, the “memory collectors” wander around the wreckage, collect items meticulously, and later clean and put each one on shelves.
The process to collect the items is quite overwhelming emotionally for both the officials and survivors as each item taken to the tent hold immense sentimental value as they once belonged to the loved ones of the earthquake victims, leaving a sad impression behind.
One of the officers in the memorial tent in front of the destroyed Emrah Apartment is Öykü Aykaya, who used to live on the sixth floor of the building.
She survived the earthquake as she and her family were not at home when the tremors struck, and now she has volunteered to be part of the “memory collectors” team, helping her to come out of the trauma.
“I wanted to be a volunteer to save these items. They accepted. Even saving a photo frame for me is like coming back to life reliving those moments,” Aykaya said.
“I found my own photo. I found our past. I am here now taking pictures of the child whose head I caressed three days before the earthquake. I even found my own toys. Even a single piece of this wreckage is enough for us,” she added.
The responsibility of the tents in which the belongings are kept belongs to the Turkish Red Crescent teams and there is always a 24-hour watch next to the belongings.
After all the items in the wreckage are collected and the rubble piles are removed, the Family and Social Policies Ministry will deliver the memories to their owners.