Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Prayers For Amiel Alcantara, Ateneo Grade School Parking Lot Accident Victim

I couldn't sleep last night.

At around 10:30 PM, P came rushing into the room and asked me if I had received a text about a young boy who had died at the Ateneo Grade School earlier that day. I immediately got up and we both looked at L, all of ten, who was fast asleep on the bed. "He was L's age..." she said.

The details I have are still sketchy but my heart is so heavy and it goes out to everyone involved in the accident. The loss of a child is always, such a complicated loss. It becomes an even greater and more difficult loss to grapple with when an accident is involved.

Amiel. That was the young boy's name. A beautiful Hebrew name that means "friend of God". According to initial reports, he had not been feeling well that day and the school had advised his father about it. Amiel has a brother who is the seventh grade and so when dismissal time came, they were supposedd to all go home together. The boys were already in their car when Amiel got hungry and so he and his yaya decided to go to the grade school canteen to buy something.

Meanwhile, inside a van, a 30something mom, had instructed her driver to go and get her young son. If you are a parent, you know how sunduan time at an elementary school can be such a nightmare. The mother said she would just take care of moving the vehicle if need be.

From behind the vehicle come Amiel and his yaya. And that is when the accident takes place. It is vague to me but according to accounts, the van was backing up and hit the young boy and the boy must have yelled out. Rather than stepping on the brakes, the mom panics and hits the accelerator instead...

That mother could have been me. That boy, God forbid, could have been my son. I pick up my children everyday from school. I know what the traffic is like. I've heard of children who have been sideswiped in the parking lots of elementary schools all over the country. I've had a cousin who got backed up by a jeepney in the parking lot of Don Bosco Makati in the 1970s, died for a minute but came back. Amiel did not make it. And now there is a pall of gloom all over the Ateneo campus and in every parents heart.

To lose a child is every parents nightmare. I know how it is. I've been to hell and back. My heart breaks once more. Amiel was my son's age, the only son I have now. I heard his older brother saw the accident happen. It is a major tragedy of great proportions. So traumatic for everyone involved.

When something like this happens we are saddenned, we grieve, we are angry, we are called to action... What can parents do?

The tragedy is a wake-up call. Traffic and parking need to be re-assessed, not only at the Ateneo, but perhaps in most elementary schools where the traffic has become a daily nightmare. It happenned on a sprawling (but crowded with cars) Loyola campus. It could just as easily have happenned inside a Greenhills subdivision, on Ortigas avenue, in a cramped parking lot in Makati. Parents and school administrators need to join hands to find a solution lest another young child loses his life.

I pray for all the families involved. I pray that they get the therapy they need. A child's grief cannot be swept under the rug. They may seem okay on the surface, but when it is not dealt with and processed, it is a sadness and a loss
that they carry with them all throughout their lives. One that affects psyche, behavior, relationships, and life attitudes. I think of Amiel's kuya, of his family and of his classmates. I want to reach out to them, to do activities with his classmates, to read them our story. I think of that young mother who accidentally ran over him. How do you live with something like that?

My prayer is for everyone involved to be wrapped in the love, support and prayers of family and friends. It will be a very long journey for all. Faith and forgiveness will be the keys to moving on. But to get that point is one that will entail navigating a very long and arduous road. The only way to find the light is to go through the tunnel, there are no shortcuts. I am sure that Amiel is now happy in heaven, he whose name also means "My people belong to God." May God be with all of them, with all of us who grieve this tragedy, at this time.

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