Pradeep Thushantha (46) and his wife Rasika Dilrukshi were proud parents of three beautiful and lively children, Pushpa, Salome and Salom. They lived in Katuwapitiya, in the Gampaha District. Their two daughters Pushpa and Salome schooled at the prestigious Ave Maria Convent in Negombo, while their young son Salom had recently started Grade 1 at Maris Stella College, Negombo.
Thushantha tells us that he was always a hopeful, joyful and hardworking person and Rasika was a incredibly supportive wife who was an excellent home-maker. Thushantha worked three jobs to make ends meet, working as a tuk-tuk driver, a part-time real estate broker and also working as a security guard at night. Even though this meant he was always busy, he says he was never weary because he knew all his efforts were to make sure his family was happy and provided for. Thushantha and Rasika didn’t have much, but they were always happy and content with what they had been blessed with, especially thankful for their three beautiful children.
The fateful events that took place on the 21st of April 2019, altered the course of Thushantha’s life forever. Thushantha had just finished a night shift as a security guard and joyfully arrived at St. Sebastian’s Church Katuwapitiya, in his tuk-tuk to pick up his wife and children who were attending the Easter Sunday mass. As fate would have it, he decided not to attend the Easter mass with his family that morning as his night shift ended late and he did not have enough time to go home and change into clean clothes in time for the mass. As he sat in his tuk-tuk waiting for his family, at precisely 8:50am he heard a deafening sound and experienced the impact of a huge explosion which set the Church ablaze. Not knowing that a terrorist attack had just taken place Thushantha ran into the church in search of his family. For Thushantha, life as he knew it came to a screeching halt that morning when he discovered the lifeless dismembered bodies of his wife and three children, who were victims of one of the most barbaric acts of terrorism our island-nation has ever experienced.
Today, even though it has been 16 months since the Easter Sunday Attacks, Thushantha is unable to get his life back on track as he is utterly consumed by his grief of losing his loved ones. He says, he has tried numerous ways to numb the pain in his heart. Turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism he tells us how he would drink all day and visit the graves of his family at the end of each day and sleep on top of his family members grave stones. He says that is all he has left of his once beautiful family.
Following the Easter Attacks, Thushantha lost the only home his family had known, as it belonged to his wife’s parents. Since his wife and three children had passed away, his in-laws feared that he would re-marry and claim ownership to the property. Destitute with shattered dreams and nowhere to turn to Thushantha was forced to rent a room in Katuwapitiya. He says he eats all three meals from the shop and most days he doesn’t even feel hunger as he is lost in thought.
Depressed and despondent, Thushantha says that for many months he entertained suicidal thoughts as he saw no point in living without his beautiful family; however, thankfully a friend of his has helped him navigate this difficult time and is helping him rebuild his life. Thushantha says he wants to find the purpose for which he was spared by God. He says “I must have stayed on to be a blessing to someone else. I want to honour the memory of my family by helping other people in need.”
Adamant to get his life back together, Thushantha invested all his savings and purchased a small block of land, although he had no funds to construct a home. He felt having something to call his own gave him a semblance of normalcy when everything seemed so uncertain. The Catholic church has assisted him to fill the land with earth as there was depression in the land. However, he is not able to construct a home on the land without financial assistance.
Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka is committed to trying to help Thushantha rebuild his life, Brick by Brick. Even though it will no doubt take many years for Thushantha to move past this unimaginable sorrow, at least a home of his own will provide him some stability and be a symbol of a new beginning for him.