Every parent's worst nightmare
THIS national tragedy is, for most Singapore parents, a personal one.
We felt the anxiety, we felt the fear and we prayed.
As we followed the updates on the fate of the children from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), our hearts grew heavier. Every tragic detail was a stab to our hearts.
My friend - a mother of three children aged nine, 11 and 14 - wrote on Facebook: "May the children keep (sic) safe till they are found."
A father of a 12-year-old boy shared: "My wife and I will keep praying for the safe return of the children to the arms of their parents."
But why did we feel for this so keenly? Why was it so personal?
I am no psychologist, but I am a mother and I know anxiety and fear.
Both my son and daughter went to Hong Kong when they were in Primary 5, one year after the other. Their itinerary was less intimidating - they even spent a day in Disneyland.
Yet, I can still remember how, for the four nights when my son was away for his first trip without us, my husband and I could not sleep properly.
We fretted over what now seems mundane and frivolous: "Will the fussy eater enjoy his meals or starve during the trip?"
But he "made it" and said he had a wonderful time. He tried different kinds of cuisine and even made a friend from the New Territories.
It was different when it was his younger sister's turn. She is more independent, so we figured she would be safer. But two days into the trip, her teacher called me.
My daughter had twisted her ankle and was in pain. A teacher had taken her to a Chinese physician and we were assured she would be fine. The girl sounded just as confident on the phone, but I could barely control my tears.
Now imagine all that worry multiplied a million times and it still would not come close to what the parents of the TKPS pupils are going through.
A colleague asked me a couple of months ago if she should allow her son to go on a school trip to Malaysia. My answer then was an instant, encouraging: "Yes! Why not?"
If you ask me now, my response, despite knowing that natural disasters are acts of God, may not be as glib.
THE NEW PAPER