‘I was awake at the time of the earthquake. The tremor started slowly at first, then everything went completely dark. This is how Kemal Ateş remembers the first moments of that great disaster. When he regained his consciousness, he first called out to his parents. Not knowing that the earthquake had taken his family away from him. Ateş described his helplessness, saying, ‘I realized that they were gone when I did not hear their voices, but I couldn’t do anything’.
Kemal Ateş’s left side down from his waist was trapped under a heavy concrete block. He could not move. ASAM Canine Search and Rescue Team, which was one of the first search and rescue teams to take rapid action in the early moments of the earthquake and reach Hatay, crossed paths with him 24 hours later. He described the situation he was in as follows: ‘It was so dark that I couldn’t tell whether my eyes were open or closed’.
It took several hours to get Kemal Ateş out of his trapped position. He was seriously injured when he was pulled out, so he was rushed to the hospital. He is still undergoing treatment. He receives physiotherapy 5 days a week. And he was at the hospital, undergoing treatment, when he felt the urge to connect with the team that had rescued him. Once Kemal Ateş’s medical situation improved and he arrived from Istanbul to Ankara, the first thing he said was ‘I don’t remember much about the moment of my rescue, but the voices of the team members are still in my mind. Today, it was those voices already etched in my mind that helped me recognize the members of the team’.
Kemal Ateş reunited with Orhan Hınçal, the leader of the team that rescued him, and the team members Murat Polat, Savaş Erdem and Mert Yoleri at ASAM’s headquarters in Ankara after 5 and a half months. And here is the photo marking that unforgettable moment. They are now lifelong companions!