Sunday, March 01, 2009

Death on a schoolday

I was in Cebu for a meeting when I heard about the tragedy that befell Ateneo grade school pupil Amiel Alcantara on the school's parking lot last Tuesday. The boy was run over by a van driven by woman who was picking her son from the school. The boy was declared dead on arrival in a nearby hospital. The tragedy was made even more disturbing because it was witnessed by the boy's siblings and the nanny who pushed the other kids from the rushing van. She was also injured.

The incident brought back memories of a loss we experienced 30 years ago in March 1979. One of my classmates named Renato drowned in a friend's pool on his birthday. The death was an accident and my whole elementary school was in shock. The teachers had to go on counselling mode and they told the children that no one wanted this tragedy and that it was an accident. No one is to blame not even the kids who attended the birthday party. The teachers said that the best way we can deal with it is to learn from the tragedy. If so Renato's death would not have been in vain.

But that tragedy is not comparable to what befell Amiel Alcantara. The pain would have been immense for the boy's family and the family of the woman who ran him down The woman's son was in the same grade as Amiel was. Was it really an accident waiting to happen?

When the grieving is over and all have to move on, the search for an answer to the boy's father's question

“Hindi ko matugma ang dahilan kung bakit sa isang lugar, sa isang ina, at isang pagkakataon ay mangyayari iyon."

I cannot seem to piece together the reasons why it had to happen at that time at that place, involving a mother like her.

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The question is unanswerable except in the silence of reflection and remembrance.

But Ateneo de Manila will have to determine if its parking and traffic policies are wanting. For one thing there is a perception that there are too many cars allowed in campus. The campus does not have that much road space. In other countries, cars are restricted near primary schools. Many children commute to school on school buses. Also traffic stops when kids get on or off the bus.


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