70 surviving students pay visit to friends’ memorial service

April 30, 2014
Danwon High School students rescued from the sunken ferry Sewol are overwhelmed with emotion while passing an array of photographs of their fellow students who didn’t survive during their trip to a joint memorial altar set up in Ansan Hwarang Park, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Danwon High School students rescued from the sunken ferry Sewol are overwhelmed with emotion while passing an array of photographs of their fellow students who didn’t survive during their trip to a joint memorial altar set up in Ansan Hwarang Park, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

By Nam Hyun-woo

ANSAN — Seventy Danwon High School students who were rescued from the Sewol offered their condolences at a joint altar in Ansan Hwarang Park, Wednesday.

The altar commemorates friends and teachers who didn’t make it out of the sinking ferry.

They made the trip after being discharged from a hospital where they were treated for physical and mental injuries sustained during their escape from the April 16 disaster. Four remained hospitalized.

More than 320 students were on board the ill-fated vessel going on a field trip to Jeju Island. Seventy-nine students and eight teachers were still missing, Wednesday, while 75 had been rescued.

The students and their parents arrived in six buses.

Volunteer workers and civic group members prevented reporters and cameramen from interviewing them or taking photographs.

Clad in white shirts and navy trousers or skirts — the students held hands with their parents and gazed at the photos of the 157 students and four teachers placed there.

Many of them shed tears. Some seemed to be dazed at the overwhelming number of victims, mostly their friends. Some male students tried to hide their tears, while some girls lowered their heads and cried openly.

Citizens queuing in long lines silently waited and wiped away tears until they finished saying farewell to their peers.

After the short visit, the group boarded the buses and headed to a center for psychotherapy.

Since their rescue, they have been treated at Korea University Ansan Hospital. They left there in the morning and headed directly to the altar.

“Seventy out of 74 students treated here left this morning because their conditions were improved,” said Cha Sang-hoon, the hospital’s president.

“Doctors believe that resuming their daily routines will be more helpful for them than staying in hospital. They will be treated as outpatients.”

Fifteen days have passed since the accident, but the grief of the victims’ families remains the same.

In small tents set up outside the altar for bereaved families, mothers of the victims seemed exhausted.

“What should I do to revive our children,” a mother shrieked. “Those young children have perished because of bad adults.”

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 32,397 had visited the altar. More than 180,000 people visited a temporary memorial altar which was in place until Monday.

Meanwhile, officials reminded people to dress appropriately when visiting the altar.

“There are some citizens visiting here while heading to or returning from outings in the spring weather,” one official said. “We understand their will to express sorrow, but wearing appropriate outfits is desired.”

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