One month has passed since this devastating tragedy and I’ve just read that the captain and three crew members were recently indicted with charges of homicide by omission.
The South Korean Sewol Ferry sank on April 16th, 2014, taking with it almost all of its original 476 lives. The vessel was carrying mostly high school students leaving from Incheon, where I live, heading towards Jeju Island for a 4 day school field trip.
This has been weighing heavily on my mind and I’ll admit that I have avoided writing about it for some time. Maybe I’ve been avoiding it partly because I didn’t feel that it was mine to write about; it was not my loss to grieve and was not my place to comment. For as physically close as I was, I felt so strangely removed from the entire thing from the fact that I am not Korean to the fact that I heard about it first from Twitter of all places.
I think another reason I avoided writing about it was that no amount of finger pointing and captain blaming brought any sense of peace or justice to the devastation that is unreasonable death. Innocent people died for no reason; there is only loss and compassion.
“In the future, I want there to be no more ferry” Jeong Bin, 10 years old.
Ultimately, hearing my students’ heartfelt reactions filtered by their limited English was enough to make me want to record this. Their stories are what made it a part of my experience, even if I am not Korean and no one I know was affected directly.
Maybe not so strangely, this whole thing reminded me of 9/11 and how similarly, this tragedy will play a major role in shaping a generation. My students’ shock reminded me of my own shock as a child who didn’t know how to make sense of such death. As an adult, it really shook me to realize that even now, I have no idea what to make of it. I can only feel the pain I can bear and remember.