Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 11:17 am
In its first national day of mourning in more than half a century, the Netherlands came to a standstill Wednesday as the remains of some of the victims who died when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine came home.
Two military planes landed in Eindhoven. King Willem Alexander, Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, along with some family members of the dead, waited on the tarmac on a bright, clear day.
A trumpet salute was played, and the country held a minute of silence. Television images showed buses stopped along the roads, air traffic around the airport was shutdown, and the only sound to be heard was the hum of engines and the flapping of flags at half-staff.
Solemnly, Dutch servicemen entered the aircraft as 40 hearses lined up around them. Slowly, and one at a time, the men transferred the wooden coffins from the planes to the hearses.
It was quiet. It was dignified. And it seemed that a week after the tragedy and after a protracted and dramatic international scramble to remove bodies and evidence from a war-zone in Ukraine, there was some closure today.
Still, this is a long journey. As Bloomberg reports, now begins the grim task of identifying the remains, which Prime Minister Rutte said "may take months."
Of the 298 people who died when Flight MH17 was shot out of the sky, 193 were Dutch citizens.