Does anyone know what I’m talking about when I mention the “Herald of Free Enterprise”? It was a ferry, and it capsized in the 1980s, killing a lot of people. Shortly after the event I found Mum standing in the kitchen sobbing as she listened to a news report. ‘It’s the children,’ was all she could manage to say.
It was the same when my uncle died suddenly, a decade later. Dad told me and I went to find Mum and comfort her. Again I found her in the kitchen crying (she was career-driven but also domestic, so perhaps the kitchen was her comfort spot or maybe it just kept her busy). Again all she said was: ‘It’s the children…’ (meaning my three youngish cousins).
One of my ex partners exists, he used to tell me, because his father was one of the first reporters (or THE first one, depending on reports) on the scene after the Aberfan Disaster of the 1960s. I’m not putting any links up here, if you’re not aware of all these awful sad stories then all you really need to know is the keyword: children. There is something about a disaster on a major scale that involves any young loss of life, or affects children in some way – especially when those young lives can be easily relatable to your own – that makes the event just so much sadder for adults (any adult, you don’t have to have a child yourself). The weight is palpable.
On Friday, several climbers on Mount Kinabalu died after an earthquake. The event hit hard one of our Singapore primary schools, which lost several 12-year-olds in the disaster, plus a guide and many others. Parents pass things on, and this week I am channeling Mum, as news reports make my eyes prickle and my heart heavy.