May 9 – A time to mourn and a time to build up

Herbert MensahLast year on May 9th, 126 people died at the Accra Sports stadium. It was an event of tremendous shock for individuals, families, the nation and the footballing world; a day which will forever be etched in my mind. My values and my goals have changed since that tragic day. It is a day which touched the entire nation of Ghana and which the families of the deceased will never forget. We have had all our own particular views on the event and what could have been done to prevent the incident; but we can never hope to understand a tragedy so great and unnecessary as that one was.

How can we fathom such an event? All wisdom is from the Lord: The sand of the sea, the drops of rain and the days of eternity – who can count them? The height of the heaven, the breadth of the earth, the abyss and wisdom – who can search them out (from the Ecclesiastes in the Deuteron canonical Books, Chapter 1, Verse 2).

I still wake up at night and early in the morning and remember as I am sure others also do, the afternoon rain, the match itself, the lines mans flag, the teargas, the images of people jumping from great heights to escape the tear gas, the confusion and the stampede, the injured and the dead, the club colours draped on the dead, the living and working with friends from Hearts of Oak carrying bodies of the dead and the injured.

It is always easy for tragedies to be set aside and almost forgotten but I like many others can and will never forget this particular tragedy. In 1996/97 when I raised $20,000 for Max Brito I visited him at his hospital bed in France and as I was leaving he begged me to tell the world never to forget him. I made sure that people heard his plea and visited him whenever they could! Similarly although we must move on in life, we will never forget this day.

We have lost and we have mourned but as was said in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 verses 1-8, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a die to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

The time has now come to look forward. To paraphrase from Ecclesiastes in the Deuteron canonical Books Chapter 38 verses 16 – 23 our tears fell for the dead, our weeping was bitter and our wailing fervent, our mourning was worthy of the departed. However we must be comforted for our grief, for grief may result in death, and a sorrowful heart saps one’s strength. When a person is taken away, sorrow is over; but the life of the poor weighs down the heart. We must not let grief and destitution weigh us down.

Comfort comes from our relations and friends but the process of recovery is coordinated by and is the responsibility of government. Out of respect for the departed most have been silent on the various steps, which have or should have been taken to address the plight of the living relatives of the 126 departed. In our communities we helped with our prayers and emotional support and we helped raise funds for the living. It is one year since the tragedy and we call on the government to play its part in the healing process and account for monies collected on behalf of the May 9th victims and to set out its intentions for the future. In that way the victims and families of the victims can put the tragedy behind them and proceed with rebuilding their lives.

May 9th is a time to remember the dead, to extend our prayers to the living; it is a day to mourn and a day to rebuild. It is a time to ask God the Almighty for guidance and strength that the goodness of our dead loved ones may always live with us and we may gain the strength to move forward with courage and hope.

Life goes on, yes, but hopefully we have all learnt to live together as brother and sister and that life is for the living for the dead have been sacrificed so that we can live!

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