A year into the Mirsarai tragedy in Chittagong, relatives and fellow villagers of the 45 victims, 44 of them schoolchildren, are still haunted by the painful memory.
For the families and the teachers of the schools where the 44 kids studied, the horror of the day is still fresh, no matter how hard they try to bury their pains.
The tragedy happened on July 11 last year when a truck carrying more than 60 students plunged into a roadside ditch. The kids were returning home by the truck after watching a football match. Thirty-nine students, aged between 8 and 18, died on the spot.
Farmer-turned-driver Jasim Uddin had no formal driving training. He had managed himself a fake licence for money, Harun-Ar-Rashid, brother-in-law of Jasim, told The Daily Star following the accident.
A Chittagong court in December last year sentenced Jasim, 40, to a five-year jail term.
The entire locality, however, has been grieving over the last few days as the upazila administration and the school authorities were organising commemorative programmes since Monday.
Portraits of the victims have been hung on overhead banners in Abu Torab, Mayani and Moghadia areas.
The construction of a monument named "Aabeg" (emotion) was completed last week on the premises of Abu Torab Bahumukhi High School in memory of the 31 students the school lost.
Today, a daylong programme will be organised by the upazila parishad. Local parliament member Mosharraf Hossain is scheduled to be present.
“Many of the children we lost could have been the first educated generation of their families and could have improved the conditions of their families and the country,” said Zafar Sadek, headmaster of Abu Torab High School.
Many of the victims were the only sons of their families and their untimely deaths shattered many dreams their families had cherished.
Masuda Begum of Madhyam Mayani village lost her only son Sharif Uddin, a class IX student, in the accident.
The poor mother, wife of a jute mill worker, said her husband worked very hard to send their two children to school.
He did so with a hope: they would come out of poverty someday. With Sharif now dead, Masuda's class-five daughter Durde Shefa is her only hope.
The parents of the victims gathered on the high school premises on Monday morning as the school authorities organised a programme to offer prayers for the young souls.
One of them was Nilima Shil who also lost her only son Nayan Shil, a class VIII student of the school. Nayan died on 24 November last year at Apollo Hospital in Dhaka after fighting for life for over four months. Despite government support, Nayan could not be saved.
“Nayan's father died of cancer when Nayan was only two years old and my second daughter took a job last year in a garment factory in Chittagong,” said the mother.
Her daughter lost the job as she had to remain busy taking care of her injured brother.
Nilima now wants a job for her daughter to run the family.
In the caption of our yesterday's issue the date of the Mirsarai tragedy was inadvertently mentioned as April 11, which would be July 11. We regret the error.