Updated May. 22, 2014 06:44
"Don`t worry. You go first and I will follow you." This is a text message of a 24-year-old teacher at Danwon High School sent to her students when the ferry Sewol was sinking. Another teacher guided students evacuate to the ship`s deck and then went down shouting, "I have to help students wear life vests." He said, "If I am to die, I will die with students. I need to save them even if it means just one." A text message sent by another teacher, who is third generation teacher to her mother and friend read, "I don`t have a life vest. Sorry, I love you." The teachers who made sure students evacuate first have died or are still in the ferry.
Among 14 teachers who had accompanied Danwon High School students to school trip, 11 died or are missing. The ferry`s captain and crew members who were busy escaping and thus left the students behind all survived. The teachers` survival rate (21 percent) was lower than that of students (23 percent) and others (69 percent). The teachers` rooms were on the fifth floor, which is near the deck, but they went down to the third and fourth floors where most of the students were locked up. The bodies of teachers were mostly found at the lower part of the ferry.
Despite all the despair, there is a looming hope owing to the noble deaths of the teachers. According to the students who survived, these teachers could have escaped but took off their life vests and gave them to the students. They shouted "Evacuate" and went down to the cabins to save the students` lives. The crew members abandoned students but the teachers were there to look after the students until the last moment. School Vice Commissioner Ahn Soon-oek said, "The teachers, even amid a crisis state, were determined to protect the students and seem to have abandoned the fear of death."
The teachers shared their fate with the sinking ferry, and they demonstrated with action and not words what a genuine teacher should look like. They helped recover the sense of duty and trust on human being beyond love for students. The teachers died instead of people who committed crimes by being irresponsible in absence of job ethics and conscience. The nation should acknowledge their noble sacrifice and ponder how to continue on their spirits. Korean people express respect to the teachers of Danwon High School. "We are proud of you. Thank you."