Heartbreaking messages left at Itaewon memorial site by grieving family, friends of victims

Posted on : 2022-11-24 16:46 KST Modified on : 2022-11-24 16:46 KST
Messages written by the families, acquaintances and even students of those who died in the all too avoidable crowd crush made up some of the thousands of mourning messages left at Exit 1 of Itaewon Station
A note left by a friend of a person who died in the Itaewon crowd crush that took place on Oct. 29.
A note left by a friend of a person who died in the Itaewon crowd crush that took place on Oct. 29.

“My beloved daughter, I’m so sorry. I love you.”

“Son, I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you. I hope that you’re at peace where you are, making all the dreams come true that you couldn’t here. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Among the thousands of mourning messages displayed around Exit 1 of the Itaewon Station in Seoul, seven were written by family members who must have gone through great anguish visiting the site of the tragic crowd crush that took their loved ones’ lives.

“You were the prettiest granddaughter in the world. How you must have suffered, how scared you must have felt. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you. I’m sorry. Your mother and father are in agony missing you after you left us so suddenly, and I will try to tell them to ache a little less, to cry a little less and be well. Your mother and father doted on you and raised you for 22 years, and I will try to tell them to stay strong and take care of themselves. My beautiful [name redacted], you are one of the angels now. I hope we can meet again in heaven in the distant future. Love, Grandma.”

“My brother, you were just seven years older than me. I don’t know why you were in such a hurry to leave us. But you were the kind of person who wouldn’t hurt a fly, and you died making the exact choices you would have made. I will try to go to all the places you wanted to go and do all the things you wanted to do, and I hope you go in peace to a wonderful place. You dope. I love you.”

Sixty-three of the messages were from friends and acquaintances grieving over future experiences they would never get to share together.

“We could have had more good times together, and I find myself thinking that I should have contacted you more and gone to coffee with you more. Rest in peace. I miss you.”

“My friend. It’s so unfair what happened to you, and you had so many things left to do. It must have been so difficult for you to take that final journey. I’ll never forget you.”

“Someday, we’ll meet again and geek out together. There are so many things I never got to talk about with you. When the next time comes, we should be happy, not suffering. Take care...”

Some of the victims made promises to meet again that they will never have the chance to keep.

“I should have made plans to drink with you and just waited until discharge. I’m going to visit to buy you drinks every year from now on, so take care of yourself wherever you are.”

“I should have visited you when I had the time or when you said we should meet. I miss you.”

Memorial messages and offerings of snacks and cigarettes left by people fill the space outside Exit 1 of Itaewon Station on Nov. 7. (Park Ji-young/The Hankyoreh)
Memorial messages and offerings of snacks and cigarettes left by people fill the space outside Exit 1 of Itaewon Station on Nov. 7. (Park Ji-young/The Hankyoreh)

The authors expressed their grief as they remembered the victims from when they were still alive.

“I remember you as being such an angel of a friend that I kind of hated anyone who said bad things about you. If I told you that, you would laugh and tell me I don’t need to do that. So I won’t be mad at anyone. I’ll just think about how much I miss you.”

“I hope you can do anything you want to where you are. I’m sorry for not cherishing and understanding you more. But you’re my friend.”

“I can’t help crying over not being able to hear your voice one last time. I’m sorry. I already miss you.”

A few of the visitors to Itaewon Station came after belatedly hearing the news about their younger friends.

“I found out too late, and now I’m seeing you here at Itaewon Station instead of in person. Without you in our club the whole time I was in college, it really would have been no fun at all. I’m sorry we didn’t talk more when we spoke from time to time about activities… At least I can say goodbye to use one last time. I hope you live on as a shining star. I will keep praying for you! Thank you for spending your youth with me.”

Other messages were from students who had lost their teacher.

“Teacher, you said that if I came to visit, we could drink together and talk about your work. Thank you for everything. I’ll always remember you in my heart! Rest in peace. You were a real master.”

“In my third year of middle school, you taught my [redacted] class. I was so sad when I heard you had died in this tragic accident. At first, I couldn’t believe it. Thank you, and rest in peace.”

For many, it was a bizarre experience bowing to a friend and referring to them in the past tense.

“It’s weird to talk about your having ‘passed away,’ it’s weird to hear you referred to as ‘the deceased,’ and it’s weird bowing to you. I wanted to offer you flowers and pour a drink for you at Itaewon Station, but I kept shying away because it meant admitting that you were really gone. I’m sorry for leaving you on your own. I’m sorry for not being there with you. I love you, and I really miss you.”

How the data was collected

The Hankyoreh Itaewon disaster reporting team (reporters Ko Byung-chan, Kwak Jin-san, Park Ji-young, Seo Hye-mi, Lee Woo-yun, Jang Ye-ji, Jang Hyeon-eun, Jeon Gwang-jun, and Chai Yoon-tae) visited the memorial space set up near Exit 1 of Itaewon Station from Oct. 30 till Nov. 7. All of the notes of commemoration left there by citizens were captured in 356 photos.

Besides those notes that were stuck together, damaged or difficult to read, a total of 3,584 notes were selected and transcribed one by one. The Hankyoreh’s media planning tech team used a morphological analyzer to classify the 148,398 characters and selected 275 words, excluding grammatical particles, that appeared more than 11 times.

By Lee Woo-yun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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