As Sri Lanka Buries More Than 300, Here Are 10 of the Innocent Lives Lost

After a day of mourning, many of the victims have been identified, and all have stories to be shared.

A woman grieves at the grave after a funeral for a person killed in the Easter Sunday attack on St Sebastian's Church, on April 25, 2019, in Negombo, Sri Lanka.
A woman grieves at the grave after a funeral for a person killed in the Easter Sunday attack on St Sebastian's Church, on April 25, 2019, in Negombo, Sri Lanka. (photo: Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

As Tuesday marked a day of mourning in Sri Lanka, a mass funeral took place for 30 victims of the devastating Easter Sunday terror attack that left more than 300 dead and 500 injured. The stories behind some of the lives lost are now being shared. Mothers wailing next to baby coffins. A woman, now a widow, grappling with being alone. Entire families being buried together. With headlines talking of the deadly massacre and ISIS now claiming responsibility for the attack, it’s easy to lose sight of the names and faces that were killed on Easter Sunday. Here’s a glimpse into some of the beautiful lives so tragically taken: 

At a funeral in Colombo Tuesday, hundreds came to pay their respects to a slain mother and her three children, ages 13, 11 and 7. The four bodies were each wrapped in white cotton with their faces exposed. Rosaries and flowers were placed in their hands. All three children were in line to receive their First Communion when a bomb changed everything. 

An American boy who was in the country with his mother was among the victims. Eleven-year-old Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa from Washington, D.C., was in the 5th grade, but was slated to jump to 7th grade next year because he was so bright. His father Alexander Arrow describes him as kind and generous, and says that he had wanted to be a neuroscientist and study diseases like Alzheimer’s. His father says the terrorists have taken a young man with a brilliant mind, who now won’t see his 12th birthday. 

The first U.S. casualty to be identified was Dieter Kowalski from Denver, Colorado. He was standing in line waiting for breakfast at a hotel when the bomb went off. Kowalski had just arrived in the country for a business trip. 

The founder of the Sri Lanka Foundation in Los Angeles, Walter Jayasinghe, says a family of five died Easter Sunday. He’s always known the country to be very peaceful, but he can’t believe the family of five is gone. A husband, wife, son and two daughters never coming home to the U.S. again. 

On Easter Monday, mourners filed in a long line to pray in front of a closed coffin containing the body of Sneha Savindi Fernando. The little 11-year old girl was standing in line for her first Holy Communion at Easter Mass on Sunday when the bomb struck. The New York Times reporting that her grandmother wailed loudly in front of the casket, “Why did you leave me? There are so many bad people in the world. Why kill the innocents?”

Seventeen-year-old Kevin Goulding had no idea as he watched his parents step out of the house for Easter Mass that he would never seem them again. His eyes welled with tears watching video footage that showed his parents’ bodies slumped on the floor after the attack. 

Saint Sebastian Church in Negombo was one of the churches attacked on Easter Sunday. A city so Catholic, many call it ‘Little Rome.’ Now a widow, Chandrani Fernando, lamenting the loss of her husband, wondered how she will now live alone. 

Out of the more than 300 lives taken on Easter Sunday, more than 50 of them were children. 

In a letter released from the UK Foreign Office, British father Ben Nicholson mourned the loss of his wife Anita, his 14-year-old son Alex and his 11-year-old daughter Annabel. All were killed Sunday in the bombing of the Shangri-La Hotel restaurant in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Nicholson said, “Anita was a wonderful, perfect wife and a brilliant, loving and inspirational mother to our two wonderful children.” Speaking of his two children, he said, “Alex and Annabel were the most amazing, intelligent, talented and thoughtful children and Anita and I were immensely proud of them both and looking forward to seeing them develop into adulthood. They shared with their mother the priceless ability to light up any room they entered and bring joy to the lives of all they came into contact with.”

The UK is also grieving for the loss of a retired Manchester Fire and Rescue Service borough commander and his wife. In a message shared on social media, the agency wrote, “Sadly, retired GMFRS Borough Commander Billy Harrop and has wife Sally were both killed this weekend in the terrible bombing in Sri Lanka. RIP.”  Harrop had been “celebrated for his heroism during the IRA bombing of Manchester” in 1996. 

With hundreds dead and more injured, we have not learned every story to be told about the lives lost on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. We have also not heard anything about the priests, the shepherds inside the churches celebrating Mass as hundreds gathered to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. We pray in a special way for them, and all of those affected by these gruesome acts of terrorism. May the Lord comfort and console each soul.