When the Sewol ferry capsized on April 16, 340 of the 476 aboard were students or staff members from Danwon High School who were on a field trip. But elation turned to terror, and then to tragedy. Only about a quarter of the second-year students who went on the trip are known to have survived. Back at the school, outside Seoul, halls once filled with laughter lay bare with the emptiness of grief. So helpless classmates did what they could: They posted messages to their missing friends on the walls. They wrote words of encouragement, in the hope that they would find their way to those who needed them. They prayed and pleaded for safe returns, making plans that would never be fulfilled. And eventually, as the reality of the loss weighed down on them, they wrote messages heavy with regret and anguish for those they would never again see in class.
“Teacher Kang Min-kyu, thank you for teaching ethics in our class when I was in grade 1 [high schools are divided into three grades]. I feel guilty for not concentrating in your class. Don’t feel guilty about the students’ deaths and rest in peace. — Student with love.” Buy Photo
“I really miss all of you teachers. This must be a elaborate prank, right? I still can’t believe what is going on. I think this is a dream . . . please say so. I won’t fall asleep in class again. I will stay focused in class. You always greeted me in the mornings. I will greet you and smile first the next time we meet. I miss you . . .”
“Please come back and take a look at my college application. I miss you.”
“Teachers, I miss you. You gotta greet us in the morning when we come to school, right? Please come back and tell us that you are okay.”
“Teacher Yu Ni-na, please come back. Our class used to take pictures with the cherry blossoms every year. We should do that this spring as well before they drop. We have lots of things to do including opening our time capsule. I miss you. Come back soon. I respect and love you. — A loved student who respects teacher Yu Ni-na”
“Teacher Lee Ji-hyea, you told me you would treat me to delicious snacks if I visited you in the library. Also you told me you would invite me to your wedding. You were away the last time I came here. I want to see you this time. So come back. I love you.” Shannon Jensen