Never forget this national tragedy

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Never forget this national tragedy

Earlier this year, I visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. The museum opened last year to commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. What does the site of this tragedy leave behind?

My question was soon answered. Personal and specific memories fill the museum. The blood-stained shoe worn by a survivor and the fire suit used by one first responder in the rescue operation were just some of the articles displayed. The collection is extensive and includes more than 2,000 audio files - the memorial still collects records from that day, while a survivors’ group archives the stories of the rescuers, witnesses and workers.

One year since the April 16, 2014 Sewol ferry tragedy, multiple books and exhibitions, and even a movie, have been produced. They are all records of the ship’s fate. A recently published book entitled “Please Come Back on Friday” tells the stories of the parents who lost their school-age children. They were supposed to return from their class field trip on Friday. They remember what their children were like, what they thought upon learning of the incident and how they suffer now. The records of this tragic day are specific and vivid.

“Se-hee said she didn’t want to travel by ship, but I told her she should enjoy the voyage. I even reminded her to follow instructions in case of an accident. We talked about it before sending her on the trip. I was going mad.”

“Initially, television news reported that everyone on board was rescued. The parents clapped and said, ‘That’s what Korea is like. It’s a country that exports ships. We’re so thankful.’”

Then there are more frustrating accounts: “Ji-seong was included on the survivors’ list. But after two days, we confirmed that our son had not been found, so we called the broadcasting station to include him on the missing list. But they said it couldn’t be done because the figure was determined by the Coast Guard. Listen, who would want their child to be included on the missing list?”

While we still promise to never forget this tragedy, some admit their fatigue and that they’ve had enough. Life must go on, they say, noting the compensation due.

Here, I would like to discuss the “desire for a conclusion” that psychiatrist Jeong Hye-sin wrote about in “Angels Living Next Door.” It’s a human instinct to feel uncomfortable about not finishing a movie. But for those suffering from the shock of abruptly losing a loved one, there is no point in saying that they should return to their routine. It’s up to society to help them deal with their grief and cope with the loss brought on by the disaster. They should cry, they should be angry, they should despair. They have the right to share their stories as well as their pain.

The author is a writer for the JoongAng Sunday.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 16, Page 30

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