On third an­niver­sary of MH17, fam­i­lies un­veil ‘liv­ing memo­rial’

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Three years af­ter Flight MH17 was shot down by a mis­sile over war-torn Ukraine, nearly 2,000 rel­a­tives gath­ered yes­ter­day to un­veil a “liv­ing memo­rial” to their loved ones. A to­tal of 298 trees have been planted in the shape of a green rib­bon, one for each of the vic­tims who died on board the Malaysia Air­lines flight en route from Am­s­ter­dam to Kuala Lumpur.

Dutch King Willem-Alexan­der and Queen Max­ima joined govern­ment and in­ter­na­tional of­fi­cials at a solemn cer­e­mony to ded­i­cate the memo­rial in the park of Vi­jfhuizen, close to Am­s­ter­dam’s Schiphol air­port, where the flight took off from on July 17, 2014.

The names of all the 298 pas­sen­gers and crew killed in the dis­as­ter were read out by their emo­tional fam­i­lies, and the Dutch royals and oth­ers laid flow­ers.

While most of the vic­tims were Dutch, there were 10 na­tion­al­i­ties on board in­clud­ing Aus­tralians, Bri­tons, Malaysians and In­done­sians. “It’s three years to the day that MH17 was shot down in mid-air,” said Evert van Zi­jtveld, the head of as­so­ci­a­tion of the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies. “But for us it was yes­ter­day. That day... left a void in our lives. There is a life be­fore and af­ter July 17, 2014.

“These vic­tims can never be for­got­ten,” he said. “This mon­u­ment is for now and for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.” “A tree sym­bol­izes ‘hope’ and ‘fu­ture’ in many cul­tures,” the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies as­so­ci­a­tion said in a state­ment. “We not only want to honor the MH17 vic­tims, but also want to cre­ate a place where every­one can keep their mem­o­ries of the 298 pas­sen­gers alive.” Funded by do­na­tions, the project was de­signed by artist Ron­ald A. Wester­huis and land­scape ar­chi­tect Rob­bert de Kon­ing af­ter it was cho­sen out of three pro­pos­als by rel­a­tives in late 2015.

‘Never for­get’

As the third an­niver­sary of the tragedy dawns, no sus­pects have been ar­rested al­though it was an­nounced this month that any tri­als would be held in The Nether­lands. About 100 peo­ple are wanted in con­nec­tion with the dis­as­ter, af­ter Dutch-led in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded the plane was shot down by a Rus­sian-made BUK mis­sile trans­ported from Rus­sia into ar­eas held by pro-Moscow rebels. In Kiev, Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko yes­ter­day in­sisted Moscow must be held to ac­count over the tragedy. “It was a barefaced crime that could have been avoided if not for the Rus­sian ag­gres­sion, Rus­sian sys­tem and Rus­sian mis­sile that came from Rus­sian ter­ri­tory,” Poroshenko wrote on Face­book.

Rus­sia and the sep­a­ratist au­thor­i­ties it sup­ports, how­ever, con­tinue to deny any in­volve­ment and have sought re­peat­edly to de­flect the blame onto Ukraine. UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said in a state­ment his thoughts were with the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and urged “all states to co­op­er­ate fully with ef­forts to es­tab­lish ac­count­abil­ity” for the in­ci­dent.

The trees in the memo­rial will be sur­rounded by sun­flow­ers, which bloom in July, and will “ra­di­ate a golden glow”, the foun­da­tion said. The flow­ers also rep­re­sent “the sun­flower fields in eastern Ukraine where some parts of the plane wreck­age were found”. Each of the trees bears the name of one of the vic­tims. And at the heart of the for­est of 11 dif­fer­ent tree va­ri­eties is a steel memo­rial shaped like an eye, turned up­wards look­ing at the skies.

One ap­ple tree has been ded­i­cated to 16year-old Gary, from Rot­ter­dam, whose body has still not yet been iden­ti­fied. “It’s nice to think that he has a tree, since we have not re­ceived his body. We don’t want Gary to be for­got­ten. We don’t want any of the 298 vic­tims to be for­got­ten,” his father, Jan Slok, told the daily AD news­pa­per. — AFP

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