1,400 mourn­ers join me­mo­rial for vic­tims of Ger­man­wings tragedy

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY BENOIT TOUS­SAINT

Griev­ing rel­a­tives joined po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious lead­ers Fri­day for a somber Ger­man state me­mo­rial ser­vice for the vic­tims of last month’s Ger­man­wings crash in the French Alps, blamed on a de­pressed copi­lot.

Flags flew at half-mast na­tion­wide for the 150 dead dur­ing the ec­u­meni­cal ser­vice at Cologne’s his­toric cathe­dral at­tended by Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and Pres­i­dent Joachim Gauck along with of­fi­cials from France and Spain.

A white flag em­bla­zoned with a black cross hung out­side the cathe­dral, while in front of the al­tar 150 can­dles were lit, one for each of those killed.

The ser­vice at north­ern Europe’s largest Gothic church was also broad­cast live on screens out­side the cathe­dral and to view­ers na­tion­wide as Ger­many ob­served a day of mourn­ing.

The arch­bishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, and the head of the Protes­tant Church of West­phalia, An­nette Kurschus, led the ser­vice.

“So many tears have been shed in the last weeks,” Kurschus told those as­sem­bled.

“It is good when we can weep with each other, and for each other.”

Lufthansa chief Carsten Spohr, a for­mer pi­lot, at­tended the cer­e­mony with three ex­ec­u­tives of its low-cost sub­sidiary Ger­man­wings.

Spohr, who is grap­pling with a heavy blow to the air­line’s im­age, asked Lufthansa pi­lots in at­ten­dance not to wear their uni­forms to the cer­e­mony out of re­spect for

the vic­tims.

‘150 vic­tims’

Mourn­ers left flow­ers and lit can­dles on the stair­ways lead­ing to the cathe­dral, and out­side the city’s main rail­way sta­tion nearby.

A bou­quet of a dozen white tulips placed in front of the tow­er­ing cathe­dral had a card bear­ing the mes­sage, “De­pres­sion is in­cal­cu­la­ble,” re­fer­ring to Lu­b­itz’s ill­ness.

Ur­sula Mund, 53, said Ger­mans were still “baf­fled” by the sense­less tragedy.

“We are still sad­dened and I feel very moved to­day,” she said.

Ahead of the cer­e­mony, Woelki urged com­pas­sion for all the dead, in­clud­ing Lu­b­itz. “There are 150 vic­tims,” he in­sisted.

The Ger­man­wings Air­bus 320 was en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf when it crashed in the French Alps on March 24, killing ev­ery­one aboard, in­clud­ing 72 Ger­mans and 50 Spa­niards.

Ger­many was es­pe­cially dev­as­tated by the loss of 16 stu­dents and two teach­ers from a high school in the small town of Hal­tern as they re­turned from a class trip to Spain.

Busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive Peter Eiglmeier said he had driven to Cologne from the north­ern city of Ham­burg to take part in the public show of sym­pa­thy.

“I lost two chil­dren my­self a few years ago. My thoughts go out to the par­ents of those kids on the plane,” the 57-year-old told AFP, fight­ing back tears.

Loved ones of vic­tims pre­vi­ously at­tended a me­mo­rial event near the dis­as­ter site, at the vil­lage of Le Ver­net in the French Alps.

AP

Cologne’s Cardinal Rainer Woelki, cen­ter and An­nette Kurschus from the Protes­tant Church lead a mourn­ing cer­e­mony at the Cathe­dral in Cologne, Ger­many, Fri­day, April 17.

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