School, families mark year after quake deaths with memorial at Tanjong Katong Primary

A table of tribute items from ex-TKPS students, parents and relatives who took on Mount Kinabalu in memory of those who died in the Sabah earthquake last year. ST PHOTO: BASIL EDWARD TEO
Candles and pebbles laid out on the tribute table in Kota Kinabalu where parents, ex-schoolmates, relatives and former teachers of TKPS have gathered on June 5. PHOTO: SEOW BEI YI
Parents, ex-schoolmates, relatives and former teachers of Tanjong Katong Primary School in Kota Kinabalu observed an emotional moment of silence at 7.15am on June 5. ST PHOTO: SEOW BEIYI
Family and school mates of Sabah quake victims gathered at TKPS on June 5 to remember the victims who were lost in the tragedy. ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN
Students of TKPS and parents of the victims, who died in the Sabah quake, played a soccer match in memory of the late Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay, who was an avid soccer player. ST PHOTO: CALVIN YANG
Husband and wife team, Tonny Phuay and Joyce Lim, makes their way up the gruelling trail to Laban Rata, which is the rest point before the climb to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. Their daughter Chantal, who was ahead of them ,was a survivor of last year's earthquake. They returned to pay tribute to her fallen school mates.
(From left) Ms Priscilla Justin, 28 (girlfriend of Mr Ricky Masirin, who died on the trail), Mr Vanleorant Johannes, 26 and Ms Jessica Veronica Sikta, 26. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - At 7.15am on Sunday (June 5) - exactly a year after an earthquake shook Mount Kinabalu and hurtled boulders on an expedition from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) - members from the victims and survivors' families and teachers, observed a minute of silence at the school in Seraya Road.

Some wept while others exchanged hugs at the closed-door memorial event, which lasted under 10 minutes. After that, the families proceeded to the art room, where some children painted notes of condolences for those who had perished.

TKPS principal Caroline Wu said it was "a very emotional morning".

"Many students have progressed on in their secondary schools but this being the first anniversary, it is understandable that emotions ran high," she added. "We are very appreciative of the support, care, concern and generosity shown by the public during this past year."

Former TKPS pupil Tristan So Kwan Wing, 13, who now attends Victoria School, said in the past few weeks, memories of that fateful day came flooding back.

"It has not been an easy year," Tristan, whose mother is now climbing Mount Kinabalu, added. "For some of us, there are flashbacks but I believe we are all moving on."

Another pupil Emyr Uzayr, who also went on the trip, noted that during the minute of silence, memories of his friends returned.

"It was emotional, but I am glad that now my friends are in heaven," the 13-year-old said.

The TKPS parents and children will also be heading to the Singapore University of Technology and Design on Sunday morning, where some will play a soccer match in memory of the late Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay, an avid soccer player and TKPS pupil who died in the quake.

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Over in Sabah, parents, ex-schoolmates, relatives and former teachers of Tanjong Katong Primary School also observed an emotional moment of silence at 7.15am, before reading messages from TKPS students and victims' loved ones.

At Laban Rata, they lit candles and lay painted pebbles on a table where they gathered. Emotions reached a peak when they read the messages.

"Now I totally understand why the Omega Challengers who did this eight years ago are still in touch with each other until today," said Mr Jaidipsinh Jhala, 49, who lost his daughter Sonia in the earthquake. He added that the group can now understand the trials and tribulations that they went through.

"I understand the knee-jerk reaction from education institutions to stop this at the moment," he said, but he added that he hoped they would bring such expeditions back, as it is the sort of trip that will teach them leadership qualities.

"10 lives have passed on, but they are still pushing us on," added Mr John Quok, 45, father of former TKPS student Elliot.

On June 5 last year, a group of 29 Primary 6 pupils and eight staff from TKPS were on an expedition to the picturesque mountain, a popular tourist destination, when a 5.9-magnitude quake caused landslides and huge rocks - some the size of houses - tumbling down.

Ten Singaporeans were among those killed. They included seven pupils and two teachers from TKPS, as well as a Singapore adventure guide accompanying the group.

The tragedy last June happened more than 1,500 km away in Sabah, but sent Singapore into mourning.

Then, a day of national remembrance on June 8 was declared by the Prime Minister's Office, state flags were flown at half-mast at government buildings and a minute of silence was observed around the city-state.

Over that week, dignitaries, members of the public, and even athletes who were competing in the South-east Asian games here, took time off to visit the primary school to pen their condolences.

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