KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 – There are times when people rally together, without exception, over matters that touch the heart or excite our nationalistic fervour. The latter is usually seen when there is a sporting success to be celebrated.
The former however, is one of collective heartbreak for all Malaysians over a tragedy.
The events of Wednesday night, when six firemen, all professional divers, drowned under circumstances beyond their control is just such a moment in this nation’s history.
There has been a sense of brokenness among people of all backgrounds. Some radio stations too, chose to honour the men, inviting tributes from listeners as the song selection reflected the sadness and sombre mood of a nation.
Worst tragedy affecting servicemen
Aside from deaths due to past armed conflicts and during WW2, this is reportedly the worst case of serviceman fatalities in the nation’s history.
For the record, four of the six divers who perished were from the Fire and Rescue Department’s Water Rescue Unit (PPDA). They were Mohd Fatah Hashim, 34, Izatul Akma Wan Ibrahim, 32, Mazlan Omarbaki, 25, and Yahya Ali, 24, all from the Port Klang Fire and Rescue Station.
The other two men were Adnan Othman, 33, and Muhammad Hifdzul Malik Shaari, 25, from the Shah Alam Fire Station.
Putting their lives on the line
Firemen are always putting their lives on the line, and there have been the odd case of a fatality in the line of duty. But the fact that the nation lost six good men, trying to find a teenager who had fallen into a disused mining pool in Taman Putra Perdana in Puchong, in one go is just too hard to accept.
The tributes have poured in, and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad promised that the government will take care of the families of the six men.
He said the news that six men from two different fire stations had lost their lives was not an easy thing to digest.
“I as the Prime Minister can only urge the families of those men to stay strong during this very challenging period,” Mahathir was quoted as saying.
He added that the government would look into how it could assist the families of the six men.
This was reiterated by the Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, who released a statement saying the welfare of the families is a priority and the government will see to their needs, to help them move forward from this tragedy.
Donate money but to genuine parties
Many people have also taken to social media suggesting that a fund be established to support these families.
As compassionate as this idea might be, there needs to be a certain practicality on how it is done with a single channel for such funds. There should also be greater awareness among the public not to contribute their money to just any person or persons claiming to raise funds for these families.
There have been cases of fraud in the past, with unscrupulous people taking the opportunity to ask for donations drawing on people’s sympathy over other tragedies.
Many ways to show appreciation to firemen
Meanwhile, while we wait for the government to announce the monthly aid for the families and trust funds for the future education of the young children who lost their fathers, there is something else that all of us ordinary folk can do.
There is a need to recognise how much more this tragedy has affected firemen across the country. Losing six men in one tragedy could easily dishearten even the best of men.
We need to show them we care, we appreciate and we support all that they do.
So, why don’t we drop by our local Bomba station, wherever we are, and just say a word of thanks as well as our commiserations on the great loss of their fellow servicemen.
One person shared with NMT on how they felt so helpless and overcome with sadness over the tragedy that he just walked to the Bomba station in town with a few bags containing foodstuff, fruits and beverages, which he had just purchased, and presented it to the firemen on duty as a sign of appreciation.
They are ready to risk their lives for us, be it when saving our property or even our own lives. So, let’s just take a moment during this time when their morale has been affected, and express our appreciation in whatever way we can.