A family performing last rights to their lost relatives in the mass grave
So many heartbreaking stories about victims of gruesome terrorist attacks, that took place on Easter Day, are heard via the media these days. The more intimately affected – those families and friends currently dealing with the aftermath of the attack and the loss of their loved ones- are struggling to decide on starting their normal lives again.
Even though Anusha Kumari, her husband Dulip Shantha along with 14-year old son and 21-year-old daughter went quite early for the Easter Mass at St. Sebastian’s Church, Katuwapitiya, Negombo, the church was already crowded. It was the first time ever that Anusha and her husband Dulip had to sit on two different pews.
Her husband, son and daughter were killed in the bomb blast. Anusha’s head was struck by shrapnel. She is still not in a condition to accept the painful reality that she lost all her family members. “My family is gone. My future hopes are gone. What did they do to the terrorists?” she asked.
A family picture taken on the first birthday of Anusha’s son
Anusha, still under treatment for her injuries, had to obtain special permission from the hospital to attend the funeral of her family members. “I still cannot hear or see properly. But, I wanted to see my darlings for the last time.” Despite knowing she would be all alone in their two-storey house from now, Anusha said she would never leave the house which has all the memories of her family. “All of us watched TV sitting on one sofa. Dulip never let me shoulder any difficulties in the family. When he married me, he said he would be with me for seven lifetimes. This is just the first one,” said Anusha and broke down.
Survivors need counseling
The memories of survivors are agonising. “I still have flashbacks and nightmares. Sometimes, it is like replaying the whole lot in my mind,” Anusha said, sitting next to a framed family picture. “I never want to see that kind of things again in the world,” she said.
Research has shown that people who have experienced terrorist attacks tend to be left with a profound level of distress and are more likely to develop traumatic stress responses alongside.
Therefore, it is necessary that there should be some kind of counseling services provided for the affected in the recent terrorist attacks because there are a number of families with just one member of the family surviving the ordeal.
Need more emergency facilities
Susantha, who also lost his wife, his two daughters and son aged between 15 and 7- in the bomb blast, feels his wife could have been saved if emergency treatment was administered on time. Hearing the noise of the explosion, he ran into the church to see all his children dead on the spot. His wife was breathing, but heavily bleeding. With the help of a passerby, he took his wife to the Negombo General Hospital which was already overcrowded with the injured. The hospital staff then decided to send Susantha’s wife to the Welisara Hospital. She was still breathing with the help of an oxygen mask.
Welisara Hospital was unable to treat her due to overcrowding of the emergency section with patients. That is when the hospital staff decided to send Susantha’s wife all the way from Welisara to Galle Karapitiya teaching hospital. He had to agree with them as he couldn’t afford paying for facilities at a private hospital nearby. His wife was admitted to the Karapitiya Hospital at around 3pm; six hours after the explosion. By the time, his wife breathed her last, she had not even been taken for a surgery, Susantha reminisced.
He said that the staff at the hospital was not ready for the emergency situation. “Of course the hospital did not know of this attack to be prepared, but so many injured people died due to the medical staffs failing to provide patients with treatment,” Susantha said.
"With the help of a passerby, he took his wife to the Negombo Hospital which was already overcrowded with the injured. The hospital staff then decided to send Susantha’s wife to the Welisara Hospital. Welisara Hospital was unable to treat her due to overcrowding of the emergency section. That is when the hospital staff decided to send Susantha’s wife all the way from Welisara to Galle Karapitiya teaching hospital"
Strength in faith is not shaken
Although terrorism is not a new experience to Sri Lanka, the string of suicide bomb attacks, said to be carried out by the ISIS on Easter Day, have terribly shaken the people. During the second visit to Negombo, the Daily Mirror learned that in Negombo everyone has lost someone in the attack because it is a town where people are interconnected in terms of culture, religion and even business. What is important is that the peoples’ strength in faith has not been shaken.
The bombings made Anusha Kumari believe more in faith and her religion. She believes extremely good people like her husband are gone too early and are in the hands of the Almighty. “We will keep praying to St. Sebastian. Although they murdered people of Jesus, they can never remove our strong faith in our religion,” she said.
Will this also be forgotten?
It doesn’t matter where terrorism raises its ugly head, it will receive a global audience. Many local and international media agencies rushed to the places in Colombo, Negombo, Batticaloa where suicide bombs were triggered off leaving 359 dead and 500 injured. People in Katuwapitya, Negombo, where the explosion at the St. Sebastian’s Church brought death to the highest number of people, among the total nine terrorist attacks, are worried that in a few weeks, there might not be any attention paid to them.
“All roads are full of reporters, public representatives, activists and visitors these days. But, we are sure by a few weeks, everyone would forget this tragedy when their attention is drawn to something else. That is how it is. Those who have lost their loved ones would have only themselves,” a tuk-tuk driver from Katuwapitiya said.
Peace and freedom back
Devastated mother Anusha Kumari had a message for the people of Sri Lanka.
“We don’t want a new constitution. We don’t really care about those. What we need is a peaceful and united country to live in. No, we don’t want a particular political party to rule the country. We need a leader who can make us feel safe to live here.”