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“The nation grieves the tragedy at Rana Plaza”
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“The nation grieves the tragedy at Rana Plaza”

Mehzabin Ahmed picMore than 1,100 people died when Rana Plaza collapsed.  Mehzabin Ahmed, 29, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Dhaka in Bangladesh, describes the searing loss and the grief of those left behind.

More than 1,100 workers lost their lives in the recent Rana Plaza building collapse.

The building housed five ready garments factories, mostly exporting to Europe and America: New Wave Bottoms, New Wave Style, EtherTex, Phantom Apparels, and Phantom Tac.

The collapse is paving the way to an Accord on Fire and Building Safety Code to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh.

More than two weeks after the Bangladesh garments building collapse incident, as I enter OdhorchondroSchool and walk around, my guide, a trade union activist, points to the school veranda and says, “There are the dead bodies.”

I try to avoid the scene, but brave myself later to go there, considering that my guide has been there every day since the beginning of the incident more than two weeks ago. I think to myself, ” if she can do it, so can I”.

I stand in front of one of the people laid down on the ground, with a lifeless body, decomposed after 17 days under the rubble and heat of Rana Plaza, and pray, “Sister, I wish we had met when you were alive and thriving. Wish I could at least say my last bid farewell to your face.”

Someone then opens the white cloth, kafon, on her body, to show me her image, and I turn around, not able to stand the sight as I briefly envision that this is no one but my dear old actual sister, scared of what has happened. As her mother requests me to take her photograph, I walk out wondering how the real surviving families are coping, if this is how, I, the outsider, am reacting.

Parents and siblings of the missing crowd me, all wanting me to take photos of them holding their loved and dear ones, who they grieve. I feel as if it’s my last chance to capture images of these deceased, who sadly I will never meet again. Then a photograph pops up of a missing young boy, a smiling soul, perhaps lost with the rest.

Overwhelmed by such atrocity, on the way home I finally start crying as I remember the mother of Sweet emotionally tell me, “You will be able to work well again, only when you realize the emptiness I feel that my daughter is no more.”

Being a person living with functional psychosis myself, who was smelling burning bodies at home after visiting Tazreen Fashions Ltd., where more than a hundred lost their lives, I fear whether or not I would be able to cope with the images at Rana Plaza when I go back home. Then I remember Tahera, a survivor who because of the Tazreen trauma lost her psychological balance and could not even remember her child’s name for a while. I try to gain strength from her fight.

I remember the pregnant lady from the Tazreen fire, who gave birth to a new life a few days ago. Images of the young girls with lost limbs due to the collapse at Rana Plaza flash back to me from the hospital as I sadly remember, “little did they envision this fate when they were healthy and functioning even a few weeks back, earning bread for their families”. And I try to recuperate by thinking, if I am so scared of losing my mental state due to one day spent in this death zone, I wonder how they are going to cope after such loss – hours and days, and even weeks spent under the rubble. As well, I do not forget the survivors who lived through the terrifying fire few months back.

May the souls of the deceased at this incident rest in peace, and may the injured recuperate with good health. Gratitude as well to the rescue workers and countless people dedicating their time to help recover from this great loss our nation has seen.

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About me:

“I come from Bangladesh, home to the Royal Bengal tigers and the longest natural beach in the world. I am passionate about working for sustainable solutions to development. I currently work as a development practitioner in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I am also a freelance journalist and a novice debater.

“I am bilingual in Bangla and English. I love learning new languages, and am a keen but elementary student of French. What I have learnt from wise words and life experiences is that, “If you want others to change, you have to be willing to change yourself as well”. Feel free to call me Simi.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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