(CP-Africa) – Loyola Jesuit College (LJC) recently launched “The Sosoliso Plane Crash- Our story,” a book written in memory of the 60 students who died during the December 10th 2005 Sosoliso plane crash in Port Harcourt.
The memorial mass/book launch, which took place on December 5th, 2010 at the school campus in Abuja, featured a Mass, Orchestra and Choir renditions directed by Mr. Jude Nnam, a respected musicologist.
Fr. Ubong Attai S.J, LJC’s Chaplain, described the book launch as a very successful event. “…I think it went very well. Lots of emotions still at play…for me it was a success. It has actually achieved something we have always wanted- to celebrate them, no longer to mourn them but to celebrate the life they led for having touched our own lives and for the fact that they are now our angels in heaven,” he said.
“The old cliché says once there is life, there is always hope. Although things have not changed that much, there was a bold step made by the President then, Olusegun Obasajo, after the plane crash, to begin to sanitize the aviation system. So far we have not had any plane crash, which meant something was done. …We hope that we the people of this generation and the children growing up will learn from the mistake of the past, the mistake of our parents so that they (we) could take a bold steps towards doing something better than what our parents have done,” he added.
Mr. Frank Nwokocha, the Convener and Co-coordinator of the Loyola Union, who organized the event, said “this book is the product of a painstaking effort to couch our deep feelings and to tell a story, albeit a sad one, with a view to reminding Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the aviation sector, that there is an urgent need to cleanse the system of whatever flaws led to the tragic end of our dear Angels and in turn establish efficiency and trust, not only in the aviation, but also in all spheres of our life as a people…to the bereaved, we counsel: consolation comes from the Almighty God who knows all things, look up to him.”
Honorable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who reviewed the book, described it as “ a must-read with lots of lesson to learn from.”
Ify Obi, an S.S 2 student and a member of the Loyola Union wrote a poem titled “A stranger’s point of view” which enthralled the audience during her recitation. Asked what inspired her to write it, she said, “every year during the remembrance, someone will come up with a poem, someone who has actually experienced it… so I really thought about it and said okay, I wasn’t there but I can still make sure they live on even though I wasn’t able to have a part of their life.”
Loyola Union is an organization set up to organize memorial events every year for the 60 Angles. It currently has about 63 students and 8 staff members. Ify joined the group when she was in JSS 1. “I am in SS2 now. It is an organization that present something every year so no one will forget the angels,” Ify explained.
“I think it is a very great experience since we do not have a written document about what actually happened, instead of reading rumors in the newspapers,” she added.
Sharing her views about the way forward for Nigeria, Ify said, “my Dad always tell me every place goes through a phase… a phase of “maybe things aren’t so great.” Even America and all these places went through a period…I think our period is almost done and it is the youth today that is going to help bring us out of this period. So if they try the hardest, I’m sure Nigeria is going to be a better place.”
LJC’s Acting Principal and President, Rev Fr. Ugo Nweke also described the event as a successful one. “A lot of work was put into it. The schedule was hard on students and staff but the outcome, from my estimation, is very good.”
On his initial expectation of the programme, Rev Nweke said “I wanted a programme that is smooth…though it was a book launch, I did not want to emphasize on the launching, I wanted to emphasize on the memory of the 60 Angles and the need for us to keep their memory alive while building a better country. I also wanted my students to show their talents… I think they were met- we had a book launch, which was not overly about money, but a book launch that immortalizes the memory of the 60 angels… while exhibiting the talents of our kids.”
Like Ify Obi, most of the current students did not have a first-hand experience of the incident. On how LJC has been able to carry them all along, the Principal said “I think just one set know the 60s i.e. their peers. But the others have come to imbibe the culture. Whenever they walk into this hall (built in memory of the 60 Angles), they see the pictures of the 60 and every year we celebrate them…”
It has been five years since the plane crash. As a way forward, what are some of the thing to lookout for in LJC in the next 5 years? “Five years from now I expect the school in Port Harcourt would have begun and thriving with at least 3 sets there. Five years from now I dream that this memorial day will be bigger… and our children would have been able to develop and reach out in several ways… five years from now, I still think we would be able to make more impact- a better Aviation Industry- and a challenge for each and every Nigerian to do their best in wherever they are (for a better Nigeria),” Rev Nweke said.
Watch the Loyola Jesuit College Union perform/sing Kechi Okwuchi’s poem, “A Tribute to the Angels”
A tribute to the Angels
By Kechi Okwuchi (survivor of the Sosoliso Plane Crash)
It seems like yesterday
Full of excitement
We chatted non-stop
All the way to the plane
It seems like yesterday
We made plans, discarded them
Made new ones
Our future bright
It seems like yesterday
When we dropped out of the sky
To noise, to pain, to…silence
It seems like yesterday
That God had different plans
To take us to greater heights
A future not foreseen
On angels’ wings we flew
Racing past the clouds
Racing up to glory
Enveloped by His Grace
Though not with you in glory
I am a part of you
Left behind to continue the legacy
Left to run the race
As long as there is breathe in me
Dearest 60, you are not forgotten
Through the pain of yesterday
A million tomorrows are born.
© Kechi Okwuchi
Read Mr. Ambrose Feese’s address below!
Address by Mr. Ambrose A. Feese, Chairman at the Book presentation: The 5th Anniversary of the Crash of Sosoliso Air Flight 1145
Five years since it happened, yet it is as if it was yesterday. I remember precisely where I was when I got news of the crash of Sosoliso Flight 1145 in Port Harcout on December 10, 2005.
I was returning from Obafemi Awolow University, Ile-Ife. At the Lagos end of the busy Lagos-Ibadan Express way, where the status of the three Eko Chiefs stands, I received an SMS from Dr. Ngozi Egbuna, Secretary of the Abuja branch PTA. She conveyed the shocking news that 60 students of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, had perished in the crash in Port Harcourt, a loss of nearly 10% of the entire student population.
Reactions to the tragedy, from the LJC community and Nigerians at large, were spontaneous. They were all united in their grief and anger. At an emergency of the PTA in the school on Sunday, Dec 11 2005, it was resolved that a protest march by parents be made on Tuesday, Dec 13, 2005, to the National Assembly and the Presidency in Aso Rock, to express the anger of parents on the crash and the poor state of the civil aviation industry in Nigeria.
I was not present at the emergency meeting, but on return to Abuja, on Monday, I could still sense the anger in parents. Fearing that a public march could turn violent and eclipse the objective of the march, the executive of the PTA resolved instead to hold a world press conference and send a delegation to the National Assembly and Presidency to deliver a protest. The news conference was so emotional. There was not a dry eye present- from me reading the resolutions of the parents to the journalists covering the event- we were all inconsolable.
LJC during its 14 years has recorded many notable achievements, but this single tragedy seems to dwarf the success. It is commendable that the Loyola Union has written this book to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the crash and loss of the 60 angels. After the class of 2011 graduates, there will be no students in LJC with a first hand experience of the tragedy. Future students in LJC can only recall the event and get a glimpse into the lives of the angels through this book.
The memorial Hall was put up as a physical edifice to remember the 60 angels, but the strongest legacy for them will be the completion and commencement of Memorial Jesuit College in Port Harcourt and the reform of the Nigerian aviation industry to bring it up to international safety standards.
Looking back over the last five years, can we truly say things have changed for the better?
ABOUT THE BOOK:
“Our hope is that this story will help us affirm and share with others what we have come to know and believe: that our Sixty did not die in vain and that it was not in vain that our resilient one, Kechi Okwuchi, was left to tell the story. We write in gratitude to the Almighty for sparing Kechi’s life and for granting us the grace through this book to memorialize and immortalize our Sixty. We hope that our story will be a guide to people, institutions and communities that deal with one type of tragedy or the other. We also believe that through our story, the reading public will begin to ask questions that will definitely lead to positive changes in Nigeria.” Rev Fr. Ugo Nweke, S.J
Section 1: Before the incident- introduces the philosophy that established Loyola Jesuit College as well as its purpose and gives a glimpse into the life in college.
Section 2: The Incident- describes the events surrounding the crash
Section 3: The Aftermath: describes the ripple effects of the crash in the country and Loyola Jesuit College’s response to the tragedy.
Section 4: Conclusion: tells the story of Kechi Okwuchi, presents life in LJC since after the crash and makes passionate plea for qualitative education in Nigeria.
“An amazingly inspiring book, a poignant reminder that as a nation, we let our children down. The book pulls on many heartstrings and elicits a lot of emotions. The tears still flow; they will not stop flowing, but the emotional rebuilding and recovery as achieved by the LJC community is like a miracle and only a school of that caliber could have performed such a feat. Everyone no matter who they are has a lesson to learn from this book- a lesson of faith, hope, love strength and resilience. This book is a must read for all” Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa
TO BUY A COPY OF THE BOOK, PLEASE CLICK HERE TO CONTACT LJC DIRECTLY.
Read Ify Obi’s poem…
A Stranger’s point of view
By Ify Obi
I do not speak as family
Not even as a peer
I speak now as a stranger
About children forever dear
They came from different families
They ‘re just like you and me
But no way in Heaven, in Hell or Earth
Could they ever predict that tragedy
The last day at the local jail
Their faces oh so bright!
They said their “byes”, a little sad
But way more excited about their flight
Their drive to the airport was smooth and safe
They prayed the whole way through
They chatted a bit about home and friends
And some weeks of no more school
They checked their baggage and got their tickets
And talked in a happy mood
“I can’t wait till home!”
“I can’t wait till friends!”
“I can’t wait till food!”
Eventually, some times had passed
It was time to board the plane
And as soon as they would step inside
Their lives would never be the same
They took their seats and buckled up
Some nervous about the flight
But they knew when they saw their mom and dad
They would honestly be alright
The plane took off and soared the sky
The flight wouldn’t take too long
So they slept and ate and talked a bit
Nothing seemed to be wrong
Finally they were almost there
So they bought a little snack
But suddenly their world plummeted
The passengers screamed and their world went black
From the ground their loved ones waited
To embrace their children and friends
But what they saw instead of that
Were the children plummeting to their end
And so that day 60 children were lost
Their parents thinking of “should-haves”, “coulds” and “woulds”
And although there was sadness and mourning and pain
There was also something quite good
We may have lost our children
But we got 60 angels instead
And as long as we honor them
They live in our hearts and are never dead
So I may speak as a stranger
Or children whose lives I never had a part
But as long as we remember them
They’ll never be lost from our hearts
© Ify Obi
PICTURES FROM THE EVENT: