Bodies return to Netherlands as newspapers tell of how to mourn

Thursday July 24 2014

A convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, drives from the Eindhoven Airbase to Hilversum on July 23, 2014

A convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, drives from the Eindhoven Airbase to Hilversum on July 23, 2014, after a ceremony following the arrival of a Dutch Air Force C-130 Hercules plane and an Australian Royal Australian Air Force C17 transport plane with the first bodies of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO / ANP /REMKO DE WAAL  

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EINDHOVEN

This is how you honour the dead,” Dutch daily NRC headlined Thursday, contrasting the solemn return to the Netherlands of the first MH17 bodies with the traumatic chaos of the plane’s crash site in rebel-held Ukraine.

The NRC and several other papers printed front page photographs of flowers being dropped from a motorway bridge as the cortege of 40 hearses drove from Eindhoven airport.

Many contrasted the traumatic images of rebels handling bodies and personal belongings following the July 17 crash with the solemnity of the first plane’s arrival and welcome by Dutch armed forces.

“Soldiers wore hats instead of balaclavas,” wrote Thomas de Veen in the NRC daily after Dutch troops unloaded the 40 coffins from two planes.

“At last, a respectful homage,” headlined the AD, with 193 of the 298 people killed aboard the Malaysia Airways flight Dutch.

NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING

Ahead of the first national day of mourning since the death of queen Wilhelmina in 1962, many wondered what they were supposed to do.

“The day had no instruction book, but it turned out that wasn’t necessary,” wrote Maaike van Houten in Protestant daily Trouw. “Throughout the country colleagues, managers, volunteers, Facebook users, festivalgoers decided to be silent for this, such an exceptional occurrence for the Netherlands,” she wrote.

“Finally in good hands,” wrote conservative tabloid De Telegraaf, with a front-page photo of the cortege and police outriders arriving down a crowd-lined road at a military base where the bodies are to be identified.

“That must be what bereaved relatives felt who had to wait so unbearably long for their loved ones’ bodies.”

“It remains an unimaginable scandal that perhaps still a third of the victims have been left behind in the ‘killing fields’ of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s bandits,” the paper wrote.

Pro-Russian separatists have been widely accused of accidentally shooting down the plane, and Putin accused of not doing enough to help get the bodies out. “This must be resolved as quickly as possible... If an international police or military force must intervene then there should be no hesitation. We owe it to the victims and the bereaved to be steadfast,” De Telegraaf wrote.

With even non-believers congregating in churches for remembrance services, the left-leaning Volkskrant daily quoted pastor Jannie Nijewing.

“The Netherlands has churches because we know we’re fragile, we know that some things are too big for us. Too big to be carried alone,” said Pastor Nijewing.