When I see images of the recent Malaysia Airlines disaster I cry. I felt even more moved today when I saw the cavalcade of hearses taking the bodies to somewhere in Holland to be identified. I didn't know anyone on this flight, nor am I connected or related to those who lost their lives in any way. So why am I feeling like this?
Is it because I've been to Holland many times, have lived there, have many friends there, my son lives there?
Is it because I'm a traveller and frequently use planes to get around?
Is it because there were so many Australians among the dead?
Is it because I have flown Malaysia Airlines many times and they fly into my home city of Adelaide?
It's probably all of these things on some sub-conscious level, but from the outset of this disaster I have been quite frankly gob-smacked at the stupidity and callousness of those who shot this plane down, and patrolled the fields of death in eastern Ukraine like cowboys. Keeping those with authority and expertise from properly investigating the site, picking through the ruins, standing on the tail of the downed plane, removing parts of the plane from the scene, displaying souvenirs of the dead passengers, looting their belongings, and most offensively of all leaving bodies out in the elements and then dragging them around when it finally occurred to them that they should do something about it.
I just find this whole litany of ignorant activity beyond the pale for the 'civilised world' of 2014. This is Europe for heaven's sake. Where is the respect for the dead? Where's the sorrow? Or an apology even? It doesn't matter who did it - Russian backed separatists or other Ukrainians - no one involved has expressed sorrow or regret for the death of 300 innocent people who had nothing to do with this conflict. But I guess I'm not surprised at that. What has amazed and shocked me is the fact that the guns weren't buried and disagreements put aside immediately to take proper care of the dead. Instead both sides maintained a stand-off, played the blame game, rifled through the possessions of those they'd killed, and left bodies to rot in the sun. The world watched (well I did anyway) in disbelief and tears.
But today we saw a different story. Each survivor was taken off a plane in Eindhoven by people in uniform in dignified and solemn fashion, and each of them rode alone in their own hearse through streets lined with people marking their passing in silence, shedding tears, and strewing flowers on the passing hearses. It didn't matter who they were or where they came from - they could have been Dutch or Australian or Malaysian. What mattered is they were human; they were like us, and this is how the dead should be treated.
Holland showed its class today. On behalf of the civil side of humanity they enacted a ceremony of great respect that showed that human lives are valued in a way they were not as they were left lying in the fields of eastern Ukraine.
So, as I watched the cavalcade carrying the unknown dead through the streets of Holland, I cried for a different reason. I cried because at last someone had realised how important these last rites are for all of us, not just for the families involved, and acted on it with dignity and grace. Bedankt Nederland (thanks Holland) for restoring some dignity to the world today.