As I read about the Sabah Earthquake, my heart broke. The faces of the young children who lost their lives left me in a poignant moment… They could have been anyone of the children I see weekly in my classes, in Children’s Church…
As we mourned our country’s loss on the National Day of Remembrance, some people took to the internet to lambast the Ministry of Education and Teachers. Something didn’t sit right with me, and then I found myself recalling something that happened to me many years ago…
When I was 10, I followed my sister on a school trip to Thailand. It was a sort of an exchange programme between schools for the Chinese Orchestra. This was no leadership camp – we were there mostly to eat, play, and have fun.
We were on the bus heading to Pattaya, or back to Bangkok (it’s all fuzzy now). I was taking a nap, before awaking to screaming and feeling myself being thrown off my seat… The weather was bad and the driver took too quick a turn. The bus skidded and flipped on its side.
As young children, many of us crawled out of the wreckage… We knew immediately we had to break the glass to escape. Even after getting out of the bus, some of us went to get help for those who were still trapped inside. Contrary to some opinions that children are helpless, we might be surprised at the resilience in a child in such a time.
I remember being helped out to a nearby kerb where I sat down to wait for help. I’m thankful the person who helped lift me out of the bus. I don’t remember who, but thank you. I watched the bus from afar. Had mum gotten out? I clasped my hands and mouthed the same prayer repeatedly. God, please let no one die. God, please let no one die.
Were we prepared for such an accident? No… Did we blame the school for organising the trip? No… It was an accident…
And this was where I found some peace in myself with what’s been on the news today.
No one could have known that this would happen on Mt Kinabalu that day. It was an accident. But I want to thank the teachers and guides who put their life on the line to protect the children, there is nothing more you could have done or given in such unforeseen circumstances. Nothing. You gave your lives instead of preserving it, and you have my deepest respect… I do not know where I would be if that person had not lifted me out of the bus that day.
As someone who had went through such an ordeal, all I hoped for at that time was for my friends to be all right, and the support from those around me.
Let’s pray for those who have returned to be all right, hope for those who haven’t returned, and support those who are grieving in their time of need.
Thank you, Teachers. From TKPS and everyone of you who take care of children daily. Keep doing what you’re doing. Do not be affected by the naysayers, because you are making a difference in the lives of the children.
Today is a day of remembrance, not a day of finger pointing. Let the people have their peace. You may not agree with what I’m saying… Let it rest till another day. This is Singapore, you know that new rules and guidelines will come into place quickly enough. We learn from our past mistakes… But today, as a sign of respect, let the people have their peace.
Edit 10 June: this article by Pastor Tan Seow How encapsulates what I feel and want to say. Read the article: Falling Rocks and Throwing Stones.