As It Happens

'Hug your kids extra tight,' says father of boy killed in Sri Lanka bombings

"I want the world to know what has just been lost," says the father of Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a straight-A student who loved camping, board games and making home movies.

Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa wanted to grow up to be neuroscientist so he could help treat Alzheimer's disease

Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, 11, was among the more than 300 victims of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. (Submitted by Alex Arrow)

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Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa will never again go kayaking with his dad.

The 11-year-old Washington, D.C., boy — a straight-A student who loved camping, board games and making home movies — was among the more than 250 people killed when a series of bombs went off on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.

He was fatally struck by a piece of shrapnel while having brunch with his mother and grandmother at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo.

"The terrorist had no aim or plan. He just wanted to do the maximum damage and, you know, he did it," Kieran's father, Alex Arrow, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"He got the most amazing person who will never get to contribute to this world what he was going to do. My son was going to be a neuroscientist. He was going to work on Alzheimer's."

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks on Christians worshipping in three churches and people at three luxury hotels. Authorities remain unsure of its involvement, though many suspect experienced foreign militants were advising, funding or guiding the attackers.

Sri Lankan health officials on Thursday revised the death toll from 359 to between 250 and 260.

'He was the most worldly kid'

Kieran was on leave from Washington's Sidwell Friends School so he could spend 18 months studying in Sri Lanka, where his mother and grandmother are from.

"His mom had the idea that it would give him even more international exposure, if they did a semester abroad," Arrow, who lives in San Diego, said. 

"He was the most worldly kid. You know, his mom had taken him to five continents, and I was all for that. I mean, when he was with me, he would be teaching me about the parts of the world."

Kieran and his father Alex Arrow kayaking in San Diego earlier this month. (Submitted by Alex Arrow)

A week before Sunday's attacks, Kieran had been in San Diego, spending spring break with his father.

They'd gone kayaking together, and the boy excitedly told his mom all about it on the flight back to Sri Lanka, Arrow said. He was supposed to visit his father again before returning to Washington in the fall, and was already planning their next kayaking trip.

He died a week later.

The worst phone call

The last communication Arrow received from his son was a text saying he on his way to the hotel restaurant for brunch. 

A short while later, Arrow was on the phone with an emergency room doctor in Sri Lanka trying to make sense of what was happening.

Kieran had arrived at the hospital with no pulse and a shrapnel wound to his chest. 

"The doctor started saying that he had worked on his heart for an hour and a half," Arrow said.

Arrow is also a doctor, so he knew what was coming next. 

"They never say how long they worked on someone if the result is that it succeeded. You know, the next sentence after that is never, 'And everything's fine.' The next sentence is, 'And we tried everything we could,'" he said.

Kieran and his father loved spending time outdoors together. (Submitted by Alex Arrow)

"That's when I kind of had one of those moments when everything kind of slows down and it's like every moment becomes really long."

Now the grieving father is trying to tell the world about his son.

He wants people to know that Kieran was smart, that he studied hard and that he wanted to help others. 

"Kieran was going to be a famous neuroscientist and now he's not. Now his only fame when people look up his name will be this," he said.

"Next week, the news cycle is going to move on to something else. So I want the world to know what has just been lost."

Kieran and his dad playing Dungeons & Dragons. (Submitted by Alex Arrow)

Arrow has another message for people, too. 

"Life is more precious than we realize until something awful happens," he said.

"Just hug your kids extra tight. In Kieran's memory — and everyone who was lost in this attack's memory — we should treasure what we have and love each other."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Produced by Kevin Robertson.