Never forget

A filepic of Malaysian youths at a candlelight vigil for passengers and crew on board downed flight MH17. - EPA

WHEN hundreds of WhatsApp messages send your phone into a pinging frenzy late at night, any number of thoughts may come to mind.

For me, the first was a four-month old question: “Has MH370 been found?”

To hope for that, only to read that another of our planes – Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 – had been shot down in Ukraine, killing all 298 on board, was a nightmare!

Everything was strange and familiar all at once. In particular, the loved ones left behind.

One wonders what words could possibly bring any measure of comfort to the grieving?

As I found out, a warm embrace can sometimes offer more comfort than any words can.

Maira Elizabeth Nari, daughter of chief steward Andrew Nari on the Beijing-bound flight MH370, said she and her mother broke down upon hearing that all 298 on board MH17 had perished.

“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate in class. My mind was not at peace. I thought no, not again – why did it have to happen to Malaysia again?” said the 17-year-old, who hopes to meet the flight MH17 families.

“I want to give them all a great big hug. My prayers are with them.

“I hope they can be strong and believe that there will be justice for them. And for the MH17 victims, I hope all their souls rest in peace.”

She said that when the MH370 tragedy took her father away, condolences and well wishes did not do much to alleviate her sadness.

“I understand everyone meant well, but it’s so difficult because I don’t know whether he is dead or alive.”

Nari said that while she is coping better now, she can’t think of her father.

“If I do, I will just start sobbing. I don’t like to think about my dad.”

And with many families looking forward to reuniting during the Hari Raya celebration, the end of the Ramadan month proved bittersweet for those still reeling from the loss of their loved ones.

Mohamad Sahril Shaari, a cousin of MH370 passenger Mohammad Razahan Zamani, said no words of comfort could ease the pain of losing one’s own flesh and blood.

“Nothing has been cause for joy, and nothing gives you hope,” he said.

In a cruel twist of fate, the 24-year-old also had a friend on the second ill-fated Malaysian jetliner.

“My deepest condolences to those whose families were on the plane. I can understand what they are going through, as the bodies are not home yet. The wait is unbearable,” said Mohamad.

As news of MH370 had slowed to a trickle, he said the latest tragedy brought the missing plane back into the spotlight and sparked new questions.

“Why are they still searching for debris in the southern Indian Ocean? I’m not convinced the flight ended there – it would have been detected by nearby countries like Australia.

“On behalf of the family, I beg the governments involved in the search for MH370 to look elsewhere and redouble their efforts – we need closure too,” he said.

I ended both conversations with a heavy heart, reminded anew that even as Malaysia waits for flight MH17 victims’ bodies to arrive home, many other families remain in the dark about the fate of their loved ones on the still-missing MH370.

With the latter, we had some semblance of hope to cling on to, fast-fading though it was. With MH17, we were left to pick up the pieces after its most certain end.

We all lost something precious on March 8 and again on July 17, and the answers elude us still. Let’s keep asking questions, Malaysia, so the answers won’t always escape us.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own
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