T.C. Elias, 49, holds a special place in the hearts of hundreds of students of St. Antony's UP School. He is a saviour for the parents of children who escaped the boat tragedy in Periyar on Tuesday.
Elias `mash', as he is popularly known in Elavoor, sprung into action immediately after the boat capsized. He lifted the children and made them hold on to the hanging branches of trees on the shore.
With the help of his friend Davis, the Social Science teacher rescued many of the children despite suffering severe leg injury in the accident. But the teacher in him forgot the heroic act of saving several lives on Wednesday morning when he came to pay homage to his loved ones. Schoolteachers, parish members and relatives could not console him. Elias was taken to a classroom after he complained of uneasiness. "How could I have missed my 15 loved ones? I did not see them. Otherwise, I would have brought them to the shore," he repeated to family members and other schoolteachers. "I told the students and teachers who crawled on to the back of the upturned boat to jump. I held them and later took them close to the shore. But I could not save the others, as most of them got trapped under the capsized boat," he said.
Saramma teacher, who was last in the line of people rescued by Elias, was also taken to the first aid room after she fainted when the bodies of her students were brought to the school. Recollecting the tragedy, she said: "We were in the last boat that went for a ride in the Periyar. The incident was over in a flash after the boat capsized. The driver kept the engine on even after the boat started swaying. Saramma teacher refused to leave the school campus even after family members and relatives of the dead removed the bodies from the school campus. "How could I go home? What should I say to the family members of the children?" was how she responded to her sister's request for going home.