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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

National memorialKIEV/AMSTERDAM (BosNewsLife)– The Netherlands has commemorated the nearly 300 people who died on board a Malaysia Airlines plane which was shot down over eastern Ukraine earlier this year. Flags flew at half-mast at government buildings as the nation united to remember one of the worst disasters in modern Dutch history.

The national remembrance ceremony was held in Amsterdam, the capital, where music called “The Silence of the Clouds” reverberated throughout the RAI congress centre. Schoolchildren silently placed flowers next to 298 candles – one for each victim of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

Monday’s nationally televised event highlighted ongoing grief, disbelief and anger of families and friends of those killed when the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was downed July 17 over war-torn eastern Ukraine.

Most of those who perished were Dutch nationals, but passengers and crew from 19 different countries died. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke to their relatives and paid tribute to the victims.


“On July 17, 2014, a carefree ‘see you later’ became an abrupt ‘farewell,'” Prime Minister Rutte said. He added that loved ones, including children and grandchildren, suddenly began “an eternal” journey. But he said their lives, their friendship, talents and love “will live on forever”

A 13-year-old girl, Gita Wiegel, recalled cuddling her mother at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport before she boarded Flight 17. “The idea I would have to miss her for four weeks was terrible,” she said. “But this, this is far more terrible. The last SMS [text message] I got from her was, ‘See you in four weeks, darling. Take good care of yourself.'”

King Willem-Alexander (l) and his wife, Queen Maxima, fought back tears as they listened to survivors, including children.

Another grieving relative, Paul Marckelbach, recited a poem, sobbing as he read the final word: “Why?”

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima fought back tears as they listened to their stories. They were seated away from the main spotlight between survivors.


Other royals and government officials were also seen further from the main stage and many candles, as this day was to honour those who died, and those staying behind, mourning and shock.

Anton Kotte, who lost his son, daughter-in-law and youngest grandson, gave a speech that mixed grief, anger at their senseless death and gratitude to people who have helped relatives cope with their loss. “A missile ended their flight,” he said. “We have landed in a horror scenario. A scenario of powerlessness, anger and disbelief.”

The names of all 298 victims were mentioned during the ceremony. They also included many children setting off on school holiday. Most human remains were recovered, but nine victims remain unaccounted for, said Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders earlier.

Ukraine and Western countries have accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting the plane down with a Russian-made missile, charges Moscow denies. Relatives have expressed frustration that official investigators have not yet given answers.

This week Dutch authorities hope to bring debris back to the Netherlands as part of an investigation into what caused the crash.


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