SINGAPORE - Friends broke down and strangers were moved to tears as eight people who had left Singapore to climb a mountain returned from its slopes in body bags.
Two other Singaporeans are still listed as missing after last Friday's earthquake on Mount Kinabalu rained rocks on the climbers.
Yesterday appeared to be a day when grief touched political leaders and regular folk. Today will be a day of national remembrance as Singapore reflects on the young lives cut short abruptly.
State flags on all government buildings will be flown at half-mast, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office. At all venues where the SEA Games are being held, the day will start with one minute of silence.
"We hope that this collective expression of sympathy and support from all Singaporeans will give solace and comfort to the families and loved ones of the victims," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post.
After two days when many of the victims from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) had been deemed missing, but not confirmed dead, a flurry of identifications was announced yesterday.
Five of those named yesterday - Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan, Sonia Jhala, Emilie Giovanna Ramu, Matahom Karyl Mitzi Higuit and Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay - were all 12 years old. Also on the list were their teacher, 29-year-old Terrence Sebastian Loo Jian Liang and adventure guide Muhammad Daanish Amran, 22.
Carrying its sad cargo of bodies, a Republic of Singapore Air Force plane made its way back here last night.
This means that only 13-year-old Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar and teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, 35, are still listed as missing from the group of 37 that TKPS had sent to Kota Kinabalu.
The school opened its doors despite the June holidays to pay homage to the seven pupils and two teachers who may not return to its campus.
Hundreds of mourners - including weeping pupils, deeply sad alumni and strangers who simply wanted to express their solidarity - gathered at the school to pen their thoughts on little white cards and simply exchange hugs.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who came to offer words of comfort, said: "My heart weeps for them. So many young lives perished, teachers too, all just starting their lives, so it has come as a shock to us."
Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah was struck by the manner in which parents of pupils were supporting one another.
"For the families who are bereaved, and even for those whose children have come back, I think they should know that they all have friends here who are supporting them," she said.
"The staff and obviously the nation feel very deeply for those who have passed away."
The school reached out to console the bereaved families yesterday. Today, the nation may do the same.
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