Guides and teachers affected by Sabah quake: Award helps us heal

He believes the awards are a step forward to help everyone affected by the Sabah tragedy heal.

Mr James Ho, 45, a banker, lost his daughter Rachel, 12, when the 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah on June 5.

The tragedy claimed the lives of 10 people from Singapore – seven pupils and two teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), and the adventure guide who accompanied them on their trip to Mount Kinabalu.

When told that the guides and teachers would be honoured with Commendation Medals at the National Day Awards, Mr Ho said the recipients deserved to be recognised.

“Every gesture has helped in the healing process. The award is another gesture, a step which will help us all to heal over time,” he said.

“The award is a testament of the country showing its appreciation. It is the least we can do to commend their sacrifice. They risked their lives and we are eternally grateful.”

Eleven teachers, guides and instructors who survived the quake were given the award and commended for their devotion to duty and exemplary conduct during the quake.

The two TKPS teachers, the adventure guide and the two mountain guides who were with the team from Singapore were awarded the commendation medal posthumously.

Mr Alec Wing, who is in the technology business, said he was very touched that the recipients have been recognised. His son, Tristan, is a survivor of the earthquake.

“They are being recognised for their bravery and courage. They died helping our children,” he said.

“Some of the teachers and guides were safe when the earthquake hit but they went back up to get the other children. They put themselves in harm’s way and were killed.”

SURPRISE

Ms Quek I-Gek, 43, the director of Mountain Torq and spokesman for the trainers, said: “The awards came as a surprise as all my guys felt that they were just doing their jobs to look after as many people as they can. “Now, they just want to continue their normal lives and reconnect with the mountain as it is their home and around which their lives revolve.”

She added that the trainers who lost their lives in the tragedy will be fondly remembered.

Mountain Torq trainers Ricky Masirin, 28, and Valerian Joannes, 27, were awarded the commendation medal posthumously.

“Valerian and Ricky gave their lives to protect and safeguard the students, teacher and tour guide. It was their act of valour in the line of duty,” said Ms Quek.

Mr Mohamed Faizal, 28, who has been a TKPS teacher for three years, said he was very appreciative of the gesture.

“I think I speak for all of us when I say it’s nice that we are recognised,” he said.

“We didn’t do anything in the hope of winning an award. We did what we were supposed to do and we just did it to the best of our ability.”

He added that he was appreciative of the support that has been given after the tragedy.

“I want to thank my friends and colleagues, everyone including the Ministry of Education, who has provided us with support,” he said.

“As teachers, we have always taken pride in our job and will continue to do so.”