ANKARA: Bahadir Demircan, 37, a survivor of the double suicide bombing in Ankara, finds it hard to express the horror he experienced and struggles to imagine how he can carry on.
Since being caught up in the attack on a peace rally in the Turkish capital that killed 97, Demircan has not returned to his job in advertising, preferring instead to stay at the morgue, helping identify bodies and contacting relatives.
For him it is the only way to move forwards after what he experienced at 10:04 am on Saturday, October 10, 2015.
It was a Saturday like many others, with the first day of the weekend a preferred time for protests and rallies in Turkey.
Demircan, who is a member of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), packed into the dolmus (shared minibus) and then walked half an hour to reach the square in front of Ankara’s train station.
It was here that a few hours later, union, leftist and Kurdish activists were preparing to hold a “labour, peace and democracy” rally, partly to denounce the government’s military operation against Kurdish rebels.
Well before the rally was due to officially start at around 1:00 pm, thousands were already gathering to meet up with old friends and prepare.
“There were some 10,000 people. People were arriving all the time, it did not stop,” Demircan said.
“My friends were all there, they’d come from the southeast, from Istanbul and Ankara.
“We discussed the election campaign (for November 1 polls). I asked how things were going where they were from. Whether they could still agitate and distribute campaign material easily…”
“We made our predictions for the results of the elections.”
But then the first of two explosions shook the square.
– ‘A nightmare’ –
“We were still running when the second explosion went off. When I turned around, I saw flames 10 metres (30 feet) high,” he said, his voice trailing off.
“I returned to the scene of the explosion to help. The closer we got, the more… it was a nightmare. We saw the bodies everywhere and pieces of corpses as well, things that no one wants to see in their lives.”
“Someone tried to help a young woman who was wounded in her head and in her arm. I took her to the only ambulance that was there but it was full.
“So I found a taxi and took her to hospital. I tried to make her speak. Her words were incoherent. She asked for water and then passed out.”
An activist from the southeastern city of Mardin, the young woman had died from a cardiac arrest.
– ‘Could not have imagined’ –
Since then, Demircan has spent the days at the morgue, helping with the process of looking after the victims’ loved ones.
“I register the identities of the dead, the wounded and inform their families.”
“You know what is worse than death? It’s not having the corpse of your loved one to bury them,” he said.
He admits that both the government and the organisers could have laid on better security on the day.
“I could not have imagined for a single second that such an attack could have happened in the middle of Ankara,” he said.
He does not dare return to the scene of the blasts outside Ankara’s train station.
“If I sleep, it’s simply because I have succumbed to exhaustion. I am never going to get those images out of my head,” he said.
“When you have seen a thing like that you don’t just go and start your normal life again.”