River Valley High School death: Making sense of a painful loss

By Gracia Chiang

It’s the sort of thing you’d never imagine reading on local headlines.

This afternoon, when news broke that a River Valley High student had been killed by another student on campus, I was utterly shocked and saddened.

The police said that when they arrived on scene, they found a 13-year-old lying motionless, with multiple wounds, in a toilet.

A 16-year-old has been arrested in connection to the death, and an axe was seized as evidence.

It seems that the Secondary 1 and Secondary 4 students did not know each other.

As I read how parents received texts and calls from their children informing them about what happened in school, my thoughts wandered to my own kids.

It’s the worse kind of nightmare a parent could have.

You send your children to school, but never expect that it might be the last time you see them, or that they would have to witness such a tragedy.

One can’t help but wonder: What happened?

Growing up, I had only heard of such crimes overseas. Gun shootings, suicide bombings… Singapore has always felt like such a safe haven compared to many other countries.

But this sense of security too — like many things we’ve experienced over the past one year — has now been shaken.

At press time, it’s unknown what could have led the student to commit such a heinous crime.

But instead of speculating, how about spending some time praying?

Before jumping to anger — at the attacker, at security protocols in school, at all other possible causes — how about taking a moment to mourn?

It’s why we’ve blacked out our profile photos for the day as we stand together with Singapore in collective sorrow.

Today, we grieve.

We grieve the loss of life.

We grieve with the students and staff who feared for their lives.

We grieve with all affected families.

Think about the trauma experienced by all who were in the school at that time.

Think about the parents of the assailant who had to be informed that their child allegedly killed someone.

Think about the parents who have just lost a child.

I understand how it feels to lose someone overnight.

Because I, too, was informed of the death of my brother through his school.

It’s not the same — no two deaths are — but the pain is real. And what helped me then was clinging on to hope.

Clinging on to the God who came to give life, not death. The God who came to give hope, even in death.

Today, we’re reminded about the brevity of life.

How the unexpected can happen.

How there is heartbreaking pain and suffering while we are still here on earth.

How there is so much brokenness in the world.

But we also remember our Heavenly Father who is close to the brokenhearted.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

We look to a future where our broken hearts will be completely restored.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Today, we’re praying for comfort, for healing and for God’s steadfast love to be with all who are shaken.

This article was first published over at Thir.st on 19 July 2021. It is reproduced with permission.


RVHS alumnus once sat in a school toilet with knife in hand, ready to end his life

Bullied and ignored in sec school, I was once even nearly committed to IMH

Love is patient and kind... not demanding and nagging.