DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Thirty-four days after that fateful Friday night on September 2, Dennis Larrida finally had the courage to go home to a house that is empty — except for a few framed photographs and some toys that reminded him of his wife and son.
His family has told him to not go home yet until he fully recovers from the death of his wife, Melanie Faith, and their son, 12-year-old Josh. They were among the 15 people who were killed in the blast on September 2 that also wounded 69 others.
On Wednesday, Dennis decided to return home. He cleaned the house, arranged the photographs, and reminisced the memories he had with Melanie Faith and Josh.
“I am finally home now,” said the 45-year-old Dennis who was also wounded in the bombing.
Before this, Dennis met with the other survivors of the blast and the families of those who died. The meeting was for them to share their stories and listen to the stories of how others are coping with the loss of their loved ones.
“Despite what happened, I realized that there are a lot of reasons to be thankful for,” he said. “This could be difficult. I maybe alone, but there is no other way but to move on.”
IT WAS past 10 in the evening when Ericson Nacario and his wife, Emelita, arrived at the night market along Roxas Street.
Life at the night market was just starting to peak at that time. People milled about the street, under patches of smoke that wafted from the food stalls on one side of the busy road.
The couple approached a group of therapists. Ericson, 37, wanted to have a massage. He sat on a plastic chair, relaxed, and prepared for a back massage.
Then a bomb exploded. The explosion sent people to the ground — wounded if not dead. The air smelled of blood. The deafening explosion was followed by a chorus of screams for help.
When Emelita looked up, she saw her husband drenched in blood. Still dizzy and confused, she dragged him away from the blast site.
She brought him near to a parked van. She asked for help but the lady inside the vehicle turned them down. She continued to drag her wounded husband until a passenger jeepney offered a ride. The driver, an old man, brought them to San Pedro Hospital.
“I understand why the lady refused,” Emelita said in an interview, noting that the woman might have been confused and scared herself.
But she was thankful for the old man who offered help. Had it not been for the man, Emelita believed her husband would not have made it. She never saw the driver again.
“He never came back to the hospital. I was hoping he would have returned because I was never able to thank him,” she said.
On September 26, doctors performed a skin drafting procedure on Erickson’s right upper arm. Doctors also placed a stainless steel on his right foot.
Emelita said it took a while for Erickson to accept his situation.
“It’s hard, but I have to be strong for him,” she said. “I had to go to the bathroom to cry.”
But Ericson has already accepted what has happened.
“He’s started to be the same person that I used to know,” she said. “He’s smiling and laughing now.”
And there are no more bathroom episodes for her.
New lease on life
It took two days for April Ann Cruz to realize what happened that fateful Friday night. The 20-year-old pre-school teacher was at the blast site to ‘unwind’ with friends.
“It took two days for it to sink in — the blast, the fear, pain, and the anxieties,” she said.
After the shock, April Ann was taken over by the immense feeling of joy and gratefulness for the second life.
“What happened extremely changed my life,” she said. “But I was given a second lease on life. I am very thankful for this.”
Her healing and recovery was made easy but getting in touch with the other survivors and the families of the other victims.
Only a little over a month, three suspects were arrested. The three were linked to the Lanao del Sur-based Maute group, the military said.
Mayor Inday Sara Duterte lauded the arrest. She, too, urged Dabawenyos not to be broken by fear, hate, and senseless violence.
“It is, however, important for us to remember that the arrest must ultimately lead us to the dismantling of terror groups in our midst or result in the failure of more senseless acts of violence and extremism,” the mayor said.
She said Dabawenyos must be “vigilant and show the world that we do not surrender to fear nor do we allow terrorism to cripple our humanity and undermine our values.”
And to surrender to terrorism was not just about to happen — not even to the victims.
Definitely not to April Ann who, even if she’s confined to a wheelchair, refuses to allow the incident to clip and end her dreams.
“I am the breadwinner of my family,” she said. “If I will not fight back, if I surrender, no will stand for me and my loved ones.”
Once she fully recovers, April Ann wants to go back to work again.
“I just can’t wait to fully recover. I must go to work,” she said. CIO