Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Sewol Ferry Tragedy: "We Are All Waiting For You To Come Home..."

On that morning of April 16, when I learned of the news that a ferry sank near Jindo en route to Jeju-do, I also thought that everything would be okay. South Korea is a country equipped with advanced communication systems and maritime rescue equipment and personnel. 

And just like everyone else who thought of that, I was wrong.

The news that followed the early updates were then impossible to understand; just impossible to believe. The whole incident was like a disaster movie. But unlike some disaster movie that have some semblance of a happy ending, this one is tragic. Very tragic.

These days, I have refrained from updating this personal blog as I just could not get myself to write about places I've just been and events I recently attended. With the whole nation in mourning, it wasn't right to be blogging about something 'festive'.

This maritime tragedy brought me back to the spring of 2010 when a South Korean frigate was sunk by North Korea. Forty-six sailors died in that sinking and an altar was set up at the Seoul Plaza

But this one is beyond understanding. These were just kids, barely out of high school, and each one had his and her future just ahead of them. I have read the news of the accounts of the survivors and the videos in the kids' phones and their messages. They basically were just left behind by the ferry's captain and crew, the people who were supposed to look after their safety. None of us can even imagine what happened inside the cabins when everything was turned upside down, disorienting everyone, with the whole room turning dark and was gradually filled, not only with the cold sea water, but also screams for help and cries for their mothers. 

None of us can. 

And I will not even attempt to imagine what their fathers, mothers and other family members are going through right now. For the victims whose bodies were recovered, maybe, just maybe, the parents would have a closure of some sorts. But for those still missing, the wait is just as agonizing as when the news about the sinking broke out and realizing that their child was on that boat.

Let's just hope that, although it's sad to finally come to terms with the fact that the probability of finding a survivor after all these days is almost nil, their bodies would be finally recovered and be finally laid to rest. And that those responsible, such as the crew and the management that ignored the safety of passengers and risked the seaworthiness of the vessel in exchange for profit, would be brought to justice. And most important, that everyone in the maritime industry and government's emergency response teams would learn from this disaster.

Last week, I joined the thousands of people who joined in expressing their hope and prayers for the return of those still missing by writing them on yellow ribbons and tying them on the cords by the Cheonggye Stream. Parents, kids, office people and even international tourists took time to join the whole country in mourning. 

I watched people tie the yellow ribbons on the cords, which then swayed in the cool spring breeze as if to let the wind carry those messages, bringing it to their recipients wherever they may be.

But sadly, as I write this tonight, the search for the missing still continues and the mourning for those confirmed dead is observed in all corners of the country. 

For now, we don't know when the search will be over, but do join me in expressing this simple message... 

                "We are all waiting for you to come home..."

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