American Fifth-Grader Amongst Victims of the Devastating Sri-Lanka Massacre

On Easter Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated a device at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo. Many people died including an 11-year-old boy who was there for the breakfast buffet.

Now his devastated and mourning father has opened up about the child who made everyone he met better.


Alexander Arrow described his late son, Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, 11, as “articulate,” “insightful,” and someone who made everyone he met better. He emotionally continued: "I don't know what is in the mind of a terrorist, but I'm sure they do not know what they took, they do not know what they took from the world."

Arrow said: "They took a great mind who was going to be a neuroscientist and work on Alzheimer's diseases." The mourning father revealed that he found out about the attack and his son’s death on Saturday night because of time changes.


He’d tried to call de Zoysa an hour before. According to Arrow, "He texted me back 'can't talk right now' because he was in the elevator going to breakfast." Then, "It was about an hour after that when my phone started ringing."

The calls were from the boy’s mother who was trying to reach Arrow to inform him about the attack. Arrow revealed that doctors told him his son was killed instantly because, by the time he got to the hospital, he didn’t have a pulse.

The father shared: "Kieran was just a foot in the wrong direction.” The child was hit by three pieces of shrapnel, one of which went into his heart.


Arrow said: "I keep going over the last 11 and a half years and thinking about all of the little memories that we have together." The father who lost his only child added: "The terrorists didn't know what they were killing, but we should know what the world lost.”

Arrow also recalled spending quality time with de Zoysa on his last visit. The little boy had returned to San Diego from Sri Lanka for spring break.

His father shared

"He wanted to go kayaking. In fact, his mom told me on the plane ride back to Sri Lanka last week he said he wanted to come back and do more kayaking. You know it is a good time for some father talks. We had some deep talks out there."


De Zoysa was going to finish his third semester in Sri Lanka, where his mother was originally from, in the coming weeks. Then the fifth-grader was going to return to Washington, D.C. for the seventh grade at the Sidwell Friends School

He’d taken a leave of absence from the school before going to Sri Lanka. The boy hoped to attend Harvard University just like his parents.


Via email, the school’s principal Mamadou Guèye remembered the little boy as:

“Passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and was incredibly excited about returning to Sidwell Friends in the coming school year.”


Six near-simultaneous bombings occurred during church services and Easter brunch at hotels. They targeted Easter mass attendees at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the St. Sebastian Catholic Church in nearby Negombo, the Protestant Zion church in the town of Batticaloa, and three luxury hotels.


On Monday, authorities revealed that nine suicide bombers were responsible for the massacre and 24 suspects were arrested. At least 359 people were killed and 375 were injured.

Forty-five of those deaths were children. Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism John Amaratunga also reported that 39 foreign tourists were killed in the bombings.

A Sri Lankan government official said the bombers were part of a domestic militant group named National Thowfeed Jamaath.


Another American, a Denver resident visiting Sri Lanka on a business trip was also killed on Sunday. Dieter Kowalski, 40, had just arrived at the Cinnamon Grand hotel when the explosion occurred.

He was a senior technical operation head at Pearson and worked as a liaison between engineering and product teams in Sri Lanka. The murders were allegedly conducted in retaliation to the recent Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand.

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