…Inside account of her death
By Rev. Sister Monica Rowland, SSH
A DAY the Abule-Ado community, in Festac Phase II of Lagos State, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart Of Jesus, Bethlehem Girls College and Nigerians at large will never forget. On Sunday the 15th of March 2020, during the Eucharist Celebration held at the School Chapel of Bethlehem Girls College Abule-Ado, owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos and managed by the Institute of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart Of Jesus.
Just as the Priest, Rev. Father David Melaba, was about to preach the homily, the students noticed an unusual smoke above inside the chapel.
The principal, Rev. Sister Henrietta Alokha, SSH calmly but in a clear voice, told the students to move towards the Backdoor of the chapel. At that moment she stepped out and spoke to another sister in hush tone, she tried to make calls across to the fire service and almost immediately entered the chapel again and announced to the students to move towards the convent.
She shielded all the students and tried to make sure they didn’t stampede into each other. She was afraid yet calm, seeing all the students evacuate the chapel. It was at this point that a very loud thunderous sound that shook the whole community and beyond, leaving over 50 buildings with Bethlehem Girls College terribly damaged.
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Unfortunately, Sister Henrietta Alokha, SSH and a female security staff died in the process of making sure the students were safe. Report has it that; Sister Henrietta could not see two of the students after rescuing the others, so she went in search of them even when she was told not to, she preferred to take the risk to save the missing two, who shortly after she left ran out from a different direction to join the others.
But Sister trying to make it back after the search got hit on the head with a cut by the collapsing roof. Later on, three other staff were reported dead, as they were trapped in the staff quarters that lay in ruins beyond recognition.
Some students who sustained injuries were as a result of the rush to leave the chapel, they were helped by well meaning Nigerians and taken to nearby hospitals for medical assistance. They have long being reunited with their parents.
To the Glory of God none of the students died, because Our great Heroine, Sister, Mother and Principal paid the supreme Sacrifice.
Even as lives were not spared at the effect of the explosion so also were properties. The staff quarter, Administrative building, Refectory and hostel building were levelled to the ground, only the convent building was standing with some part damaged and roofless.
We wish to, in our great moment of grief, commiserate with the families of all those who lost their lives and homes. We pray for the repose of their souls and quick recovery for those injured.
The cause of this explosion has not really being ascertained, however, some allude it to a truck that hit a stack of gas cylinders close to its station, while others believe it was a bomb blast. Whatever, it was, will not bring the dead back. But one thing is sure, the society has failed Sister Henrietta Alokha, SSH and all those who died. May they Rest In Peace. Amen. IN JESUS, WE ARE ONE.
- Rev. Sister Monica Rowland, SSH, Superior General of the Congregation of Sisters of Sacred Heart.