Let me tell you a story.

A father& son team was interested to build a bridge in the eighteen-eighties.

The bridge was only a few months under construction when tragedy struck.

The father, a creative engineer, died due to an accident on the site which also injured seriously his son, an up-and-coming engineer.

This young engineer suffered permanent brain damage which left him unable to work or talk. Everyone in the area felt that the project had to be abandoned since the father-son team was the only people who knew how the bridge could be built.

Though the son was bedridden and unable to talk, his mind was as sharp as

ever. He was determined to complete the project. As he lay in his hospital bed,

he conceived the idea of developing a code of communication .

All he could move was just one finger. So he touched the arm of his wife with

that finger, tapping out the code to communicate to her what to tell the engineers who were building the bridge.

For more than a decade, 13 years to be exact, this bedridden engineer tapped out his instructions with his finger until the bridge was built.

Name of the bridge? The Brooklyn Bridge that spans the river linking   Manhattan Island with Brooklyn in the United States. The father and son team?

John Roebling and Washington Roebling.

The lesson we learn is that if we face adversity in the right spirit instead of sulking and indulging in self-pity, we can overcome problems. The Chinese expression of “wei chi” is significant as it denotes crisis (wei) and

opportunity(chi). If we are able to turn crisis into opportunity and face adversity with the right attitude, we can probably tackle any challenges.

This brings me to mind the unfortunate illness of Ms Lim Hock Nee (Kirkby

1955-57 & 1962). She suffered a massive brain stroke and was in coma for 14 days seven years ago. She was on medication and underwent physiotherapy morning, noon and night, day in and day out. She kept on fighting, relentlessly. She did what was told and every action became a compelling voluntary action. She took 11 months to learn from the standing position to sit on the floor carpet and to get up again without any help. Today, she is almost completely recovered: she can play any ‘tai chee’ and drive a manual car. Her courage, patience and endurance speaks volume of her determination to get well and get on in life.

Another sterling example comes from Zainal Abidin Manaf ( Kirkby 1953-55) who in spite of his bad heart attack, continued to bring out his Kirkby News-

letter year after year, single-handedly, with own finance, own typing and own dispatch. His effort enables Kirkbyites of different years to keep in touch and to

exchange anecdotes of yester-years and information of their present activities.

The former Kirkby students must have been made of sterner stuff!


Chiam Tah Wen

Kirkby 1954-56 & 1962.