Silent tribute: Work at the busy KLIA air traffic control tower grinded to a halt at 10.55am, as officers observed a moment of silence for the victims of MH17.
KUALA LUMPUR: For the first time in its 16-year history, no planes flew and static ruled over the airwaves as KL International Airport (KLIA) fell silent at 10.55am in honour of those on board the downed MH17.
Just an hour earlier, the 12 senior air traffic controllers (ATCs) on duty at the country’s busiest airport had been frantically coordinating the multitude of incoming and outgoing flights during peak period.
However, every now and then, the ATCs would steal a look at the live television coverage of the reception for the remains of MH17 victims being played out. Yesterday was a particularly stressful time for the department.
In addition to having to close down a runway for the arrival of the special plane from Amsterdam, they managed flights at the airport and most importantly, ensured that everything went as planned on the country’s national day of mourning.
At 10.54am, a voice rang out on a walkie-talkie informing the ATCs of the start of the countdown for the minute’s silence and work in the office ground to a halt.
“Okay, ground them! Ground them! Everything stops,” barked an officer as others gathered at the building facing the Bunga Raya Complex where the remains of the victims were being loaded into the hearses.
The officers, their hands folded to the back and heads bowed, whispered their prayers as the voice counted down the seconds: “Moment of silence starts now.”
There was pin-drop silence on the 28th floor of the control tower as the 12 officers paid their respects. Outside, the KLIA runways came to a halt with planes forming a queue on the tarmac, waiting for the ATCs to come back to them over the radio.
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