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  • The news dominating Swiss newspapers today, as well as yesterday, has been the coach crash in a Valais tunnel, killing 22 children and 6 adults, while others lie severely injured in hospitals across Switzerland. The children, mostly 11 and 12 year olds, had been on their way back to Belgium from a school skiing trip. They had blogged and shared pictures about their trip, the perfect weather they'd been having, the fun learning to ski.

    The pictures of the mangled coach are unbearable to look at. I have chosen one that shows the rescue teams sealing off the tunnel. The reports from the rescue workers are heartbreaking as well. How, because of the position of the coach, they could not rescue the survivors immediately and had to wait for the firefighters to come and move the wreckage first. How helpless they felt, waiting there, hearing them pleading for help. How they could not communicate with the children because of the language barrier, merely stroke their hands gently. How the children reacted when they heard about their dead friends. The rescue workers, all Swiss (so renowned for their non-emotive, practical nature, their efficiency, just the kind of people you would want near you in an emergency), some of them parents themselves, were so shocked by the scenes they witnessed, that they had to take breaks and undergo on-the-spot counselling.

    After their bodies have been flicked together, how much counselling are those children going to require to be able to get on with their lives? How can we protect our children from the macabre pointlessness of death.

    I've been busy avoiding this story, switching off radios and TV as soon as it comes on, so that my own children will not hear about it. Why? Because the eldest is only 2 years younger than these children. Because they will be going on 3 day class trips in just a few weeks' time, in areas involving tunnels. Because today is the first day that neither of them are going on their weekly class skiing trip. By coach.

    (Picture from http://www.bellenews.com/?p=15611)
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