by Saiful Mahdi
8:15am. I was ready to go to Darussalam
where Syiah Kuala University is located. It is the biggest university in
Aceh and I have been a lecturer there since 1993. I think the university
has a great chance to learn from all the various national and
international agency sources suddenly available in Banda Aceh. But it
needs to come forward and take the lead on many fronts which I’m sure
it’s capable of.
I met a friend, an Acehnese student studying in Bandung, West Java. I
knew him from some training we did for student leaders. I told him about
the three corpses in my destroyed house, and mentioned that I am very
disturbed with the fact that they are still there three weeks after the
tsunami hit. I had asked the Indonesian Red Cross team to evacuate the
corpses, but they have been too busy to respond to individual requests.
It just so happened that this friend is coordinating a corpse evacuation
team from Bandung, Bogor, and Jakarta. He called his team and asked
whether they might help “my brother.” In Aceh, you call somebody a
brother/sister even he/she is not actually your brother/sister as a sign
of respect. They promised to help.
8:45am. We picked up an evacuation team of eight members at their
Around 9:30am. We were at our destroyed house and found that it had been
further badly looted. The cupboard containing some clothes, cutlery, and
a kitchen set belonging to my mother had been opened and gone through.
Our battered house was badly looted the third time I visited,
this time for the purpose of evacuating the corpses.
I felt great relief after the three corpses in our house were,
at last, evacuated.
One corpse was buried in the rubble, so I had to call my cousins
to help move the debris in order for the evacuation team to
remove the dead body. Only God knows whether there are more
bodies underneath the rubble. The heavy equipment was yet to
come to our neighborhood. They were still working in the bigger,
11:40am. One of my cousins found my missing sister’s purse with her ID
card in it! Oh God….which one is her? The purse was found next to the
corpse under the rubble, but not attached to it. Was it my sister’s dead
body then? I forced my self to observe the corpse carefully. It is a
woman wearing only underwear. Because of the decay, her face was
difficult to recognize, but three of her fingers had rings on them. One
ring on the left hand, and two rings on the right. I called my surviving
sister in Jakarta and ask about the rings. She was sure that our missing
sister only had one ring on one of her fingers. So this is not our
sister? And again my surviving sister said that our missing brother and
sister had run out of our house when the wave hit. My sister might have
left the purse behind before she ran. Only God knows.
My sister’s purse with ID card and her employment registration
card. Mahyunita, 26, took a state employment exam to be a
teacher at a high school in East Aceh two weeks before the
I have also tried to search for my missing sister and brother as well as
my brother-in-law and niece at some IDP camps, but without success. The
hardest question is when and where to stop searching. On the one hand, I
feel that a lot more energy is required to help the survivors, but on
the other hand is it too selfish to concentrate more on trying to find
your missing loved ones? Does the victim or survivor come first?
I resolved to continue to work for both along different levels of
priority during the time I will stay in Banda Aceh. The first week, I
will pay more attention to my family and relatives without ignoring my
broader obligation to the society. But eventually I will have to refocus
so I can dedicate more time to serving my society.
1:30pm. After lunch, I went to Syiah Kuala University campus in
Darussalam. My intention was to help bring the university flag to some
roles I could play but this wasn’t much appreciated. I do not mean that
I am frustrated and will give up on my university. I will help the
university to the best of my abilities. Still, I wish…
Around 5:30pm. Some of my friends and I reconvened at PCC to exchange
our own day’s experiences. Everybody was sad to hear about our
university’s slow and bureaucratic response.
8:05pm. We started to brainstorm on the kind of emergency education that
PCC, Phi-Beta, and our network would like to help with. Our four main