After the Earthquake: Memories of a Survivor

After the Earthquake: Memories of a Survivor

İnanç Ortaç, Ph.D., is a Turkish American life science innovator and serial entrepreneur innovator based in San Diego. Having survived a massive earthquake in 1999, he knows firsthand what it’s like to be in a disaster similar to the one that struck Türkiye two weeks ago. He also knows what life is like for a survivor ‘after the earthquake’. In this post, Mr. Ortaç shares his memories and offers an important message about supporting the survivors.

I survived the ’99 Earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 that hit northwest of Türkiye claiming more than 17,000 lives and affected millions of people in the region directly. Many buildings in my neighborhood collapsed at the time, including our building.

I was 18 at the time and so lucky to be alive. I left my home only a few hours before the earthquake hit. We couldn’t save the photos from my childhood from the rubble. So, I cannot remember how I looked like when I was 12.

My wife, whom I didn’t know at the time, grew up a few blocks away from where I grew up. She was saved from a collapsed building. Our lives completely changed, and we were deeply traumatized after those 45 seconds of intense shaking.

Since then, our lives have been defined as “before the earthquake” and “after the earthquake”. For many years, when we got together with friends from my hometown, the conversations were about the friends we lost in the earthquake. There were so many.

Now seeing what is happening on the other side of the country, those bad memories are as clear and as devastating as ever. This is even bigger than what I experienced.

A disaster of this magnitude, not only collapses buildings and takes lives, but also deeply damages survivors, families with lost loved-ones, rescuers, volunteers, and even the generations born after the disaster.

In fact, the trauma does not decay overtime. It increases… For many people, this is the beginning of dark days ahead.

When we are trying to help, we should not only focus on “now”, which is very critical. But also, we should plan how we can support the people over there tomorrow, the day after, the next year and even later…   

House of Türkiye at Balboa Park kicked off an Earthquake Relief Fund to provide immediate disaster and long-term relief assistance to the survivors. Click here to donate now.