‘It’s their last day in school’

ANSAN — Danwon High School reopened Thursday but the grief from the loss of students in the tragic Sewol ferry disaster was palpable.

The school had been closed since the April 16 sinking of the ferry that was taking hundreds of the school’s students on a field trip to Jeju Island.

Almost all the students entering the school premise were in a quiet and somber mood.

According to the school’s authorities about 480 out of 505 seniors reported to school.

Some put up yellow ribbons on the walls next to the school’s gate to express their hope for a safe return of their schoolmates.

Hearses carrying bodies of deceased students drove around the school yard before heading to a cemetery.

“That is their last day in school,” one person observed.

Most of the students covered their faces with jackets and some lowered their heads to evade the throng of reporters waiting near the school.

A volunteer worker who was directing traffic was heard telling students “Keep your heads low and hurry up.”

Instead of the usual lessons, there were counseling sessions by psychiatrists and counselors to help the students cope with the trauma and grief. According to the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education, the counseling sessions will continue to be provided after the school fully opens.

At a stationery store next to the school, the shop owner sighed and expressed how sorry she felt for the deceased students.

“They were like my own sons and daughters,” she said, refusing to talk further.

A student, surnamed Choi, said “I don’t want to talk. We all feel so sorry for the tragedy and have difficulty handling it.”

Many students were seen leaving and heading to the joint memorial altar set up at the Ansan Olympic Museum Gymnasium, just across the school.

Photographs of the deceased students and teachers were placed there.

A long line of visitors extended outside the gymnasium, as the number of people visiting continued to increase. As of 1:30 p.m., Thursday, total visitors were tallied at 23,100.

The school closed last Wednesday when the ferry, carrying 325 students and 14 teachers on a field trip to Jeju capsized in waters off Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province. So far, the school has been used as temporary base for families of the missing students.

From next Monday, freshmen of the school will resume their classes. By Nam Hyun-woo The korea times

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