The First Responders Of Syria

Matthieu Aikins captured the above footage in Aleppo last June, when he spent a week accompanying the Hanano Civil Defense team to sites of death and destruction. He recounts how the volunteer rescue team responded after a helicopter dropped two barrel bombs on civilian land:

A rebel shouted from the road: “There are children in that car.” Annas ran over to a little blue sedan that lay crumpled near the site of the second bomb; it looked as if it too had fallen from the sky. He started prying frantically with a crowbar at the rear door; a mother and her children were still in the back seat. The mother had been decapitated by the blast, and the children were pale and immobile. As he hefted their small bodies out, he saw why. The little boy was missing his right leg below the knee, and had bled to death. His sister had taken a fatal piece of shrapnel through her chest.

The site was close to several hospitals, and the wounded — including the driver of the sedan, the children’s father — had already been carted away. The team realized they were just recovering bodies from the wrecks. But they worked urgently; the site was wide open and exposed and the helicopter might return at any minute. It was hot and there was a sharp stench in the air, more acrid than blood. Someone yelled that a plane was coming, and the crowd broke and ran in a panicked herd. But it was a false alarm. When the last body was out, the team climbed back into the truck and headed toward the old station; the whole affair had taken 15 minutes.

Keep reading Aikins’ harrowing account here.