Tsunami Stories: Pak Poli – Indonesia

The 2004 tsunami in Aceh was an extraordinary event. I was taking part in a Red Cross disaster management training camp in Cibubur. On my way back to Aceh, on a bus, I read that 1,000 dead bodies were found in Aceh Jaya and 1,000 more in Aceh Besar. It was unbelievable to me and my colleagues. What had happened that had brought about so many casualties? I did not witness and experience the disaster. I was just thinking that on arriving in Banda Aceh, I had to see for myself and help with evacuations where I was needed. We’d lost contact with my brother. We had no idea of his condition, whether he was alive or dead. I consoled my parents, saying that if my brother survived the disaster, he would come and find us. If he didn’t, then we had to be prepared for the worst. My brother and his family, a wife and two children, did not survive the disaster. When I was retrieving bodies, I never imagined I’d find my brother. I just did not think about that. A few weeks later, I was assigned in Blang Padang, I saw a body, and I felt instinctively that it was my brother. I knew it was him because I recognized my father’s clothes, they were the same size and he sometimes wore his clothes. I never dream about my brother but I feel close with him. It is always difficult for me to talk about it… Personally, I’ve learned a lot since the tsunami. I gained responsibility and trust. I was a volunteer but now I am head of the disaster management division. To me that is an honour and recognition that I’ve worked hard and done well.

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