A teacher from the mountain village of Adaseel in Morocco lost all her students – 32 children aged 6 to 12 – in a powerful earthquake. “I imagined I was keeping an attendance list and ticking off the names of one student after another until I had checked off all 32. Now they are all dead,” she tells the BBC.
The earthquake in Morocco occurred on September 8, just after 11 p.m. local time. The epicenter of the 6.8-magnitude quake was 72 km southwest of Marrakech. The people most affected by the disaster were the people in the High Atlas Mountains region. It was the deadliest earthquake in Morocco since 1960 and the most powerful in over a hundred years. Nearly 3,000 people died.
A teacher who lost all her students
When the earthquake occurred, Arabic and French teacher Nesreen Abu ElFadel was in Marrakech. When she felt the tremors, the woman immediately thought of her disciples in the mountain village of Adaseel, closer to the epicenter. The teacher immediately went there, where she received tragic news.
– I went to the village and started asking about my children: Where is Somaya? Where is Youssef? Where is that girl? Where is that boy? – the woman recalls in an interview with the BBC. The answer came a few hours later. “They’re all dead,” she heard. 32 children aged 6 to 12.
– I imagined that I was keeping an attendance list for classes and ticking off the names of one student after another until I checked off all 32. Now they are all dead – she breaks down.
“I don’t know how to go on living”
ElFadel told the BBC about one of her students, six-year-old Khadija. Rescuers found the girl’s body lying next to her brother Mohamed and two sisters, Mena and Hanan. When the earthquake occurred, everyone was asleep. All four of them attended the same school. – Khadija was my favorite. She was very nice, smart, active and loved to sing. She came to my house and I loved learning and talking with her, recalls the grieving teacher in an interview with the BBC.
He refers to his students as “angels”. He adds that they were respectful children and eager to learn. Despite struggling with poverty and a huge crisis related to the high cost of living, they considered going to school “the most important thing in the world.” – Our last classes took place on Friday evening, exactly five hours before the earthquake – recalls ElFadel. – We were learning the Moroccan national anthem and planned to sing it in front of the entire school on Monday morning – he adds.
The teacher cannot come to terms with what happened to her students and school. – I can’t sleep, I’m still in shock – he admits. – People think I was lucky because I survived, but I don’t know how to go on living – she adds.
Despite the tragedy, he plans to continue his teaching career and hopes that the authorities will rebuild the school in Adaseela, which collapsed during the earthquake.
Main photo source: JEROME FAVRE/EPA