Hopes of finding survivors fade
“My daughter is still out there,” a mother wept, while answering a call. She was wearing a name tag with a picture of her daughter, clad in neat and tidy school uniform.
As the Yellow Ribbon campaign launched by several online communities quickly spread throughout the nation, yellow rape flowers are in full blossom, conveying hope that somebody would come back alive. Nevertheless, families remain helpless.
7 days have passed since the sinking of the ferry occurred. As the death toll surpasses 100, a heavy silence filled the Jindo gymnasium which has served as a temporary shelter for more than 1000 family members half of whom already left the place with missing bodies recovered. Tears have dried up. Hopes have perished.
Though exhausted, family members fixed their eyes on TV screens to check and verify information on unconfirmed bodies: ‘About 160cm tall, a black T-shirt, a mole on the left side of the neck, long hair.’ The description has been posted at the entrance of the gymnasium, and Gate No. 2 and 3. Though specialists have been assigned to match retrieved bodies with DNA samples provided by family members, a growing number of bodies is left unidentified.
At Gate No. 2, the Woman’s News reporter spotted a 40-year old woman who has been sitting on cold concrete and staring at the floor for an hour. When the reporter suggested she should warm herself a bit, the woman responded “No, I am fine. I lost my child.” Seemed frustrated in deep thinking, the woman lingered for another 10 minutes and walked outside.
Indeed, no one will ever understand how much it hurts to cope with a sudden and unfortunate loss of a child.
On the second floor of the gym, family members of missing students of Danwon High School gathered according to the class of their child. All of them were wearing a name tag with their child’s class and name printed.
Parents discussed whether to place their children’s bodies in the charnel house or to bury them. The discussion was led by a class representative who said “The city government asked for your opinion. Please state your opinion by marking a check.”
Even after the representative proposed options, family members continued to exchange their thoughts, implying that they are holding out hope for a miracle or that they want corpses recovered as quickly as possible so as to distinguish their child.
Students of Incheon Haneul High School have sent relief along with hand-written messages wishing the missing passengers would come back home soon. Pasted on glass doors of the gym, the letters read “I have never been to Ansan nor have any friends there. However, my friends and I grieved for students of my age. It almost feels as if the tragedy happened to my friends.”
At 2 PM, a hand-written poster was put up, expressing bitter criticism over the government’s slow response and inadequate working conditions of crew members who signed a 1-year contract. Entitled “I won’t grow up to become a helpless adult,” the poster reads: ‘Knowledge, money, social status, and even the government were of no great help in rescuing dying people. While some self-centered staff survived, those who sacrificed their lives to save others failed to return.'
The poster was created by a woman in her 20s who identified herself as a friend of a family member of a missing person. She fell on her knees on the first floor of the gym, wrote messages, and attached the poster on a glass door. When asked why she wrote the poster, she answered bluntly “No particular reason.”
Families were worn out by news of dead bodies. Feeling groggy, they stayed lying down and listened to the Police’s briefing. They no longer had energy to complain.
There has been a growth in the number of families relying on IV vitamin and nutrient drips. Even when volunteers went around to hand over meals, rice porridge, and cup noodles, families would express gratitude with a faint smile, but hesitate to take them. A man in his 50s who took the meal suddenly stopped eating and commented “I can’t swallow the food.”
Despair and wailing that began in Jindo rippled throughout the entire country. Everyone shared the sufferings of bereaved family members.