I dash around the flat again. Should I let Thomas, our younger son, and my husband know?
Instead I sit in front of the computer and find a telephone number for the airline´s customer service. I ring and ask if Jens is on the passenger list. The employee doesn´t know but he´ll try to find out and wait for someone to ring him back. No one did.
Slowly I lift the receiver to ring my husband. Luckily he´s at his desk. At first he´s uncomprehending as he hasn´t heard the news.
There´s a long silence.
Then he says, “Should I come home?”
I say yes. Immediately afterwards I say, “Oh, just keep on working.”
This will all turn out to be a mistake anyway, I think. But maybe it´s better if he´s here so I correct myself. “Please come home.”
“I´m on my way.”
Thomas´s Skype is off and I can´t reach him on his mobile. I begin to research the flight schedule between Barcelona and Düsseldorf. Thomas rings me back. After a few sentences he stops me. “Slow down, mom. I can´t understand a word.”
I pull myself together and try to concentrate. He listens, takes some deep breaths, swallows. “I just have to explain something to my colleagues and I´ll be right there.”
The internet tells me that there is only one flight a day from Barcelona to Düsseldorf.
Thomas rings again. “From Barcelona to Düsseldorf? Or Düsseldorf to Barcelona? ” …
I pace around like a tiger trapped behind the bars of its cage.
My husband opens the door.
We hug. I tell him what I know. (He´s calm and logical, as am I.)
I reach for my mobile and leave a message on Jens´s voicemail. “Hello Jens, ring me back. Don´t turn this into a nightmare.”
Thomas arrives. His face is pale.
We switch on the TV frequently for updates: There are apparently no survivors. President Francois Hollande spoke of a large number of German victims. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined. The crash occurred in a remote region at an altitude of about 2000 m (6000 feet).
Melanie rings to tell us that she and a friend are going to the Düsseldorf airport to get first-hand information. She´ll let us know as soon as she hears anything. That´s good as we live about 500 km (300 miles) away.
Thomas tries in vain to reach Jens on his work mobile. He says, “If he´s not even answering his work mobile….that does not look good.”
My husband uses videotext to find the number of the emergency hotline set up for relatives. Thomas reaches Germanwings and I speak to the Foreign Office. He gets through first and gives them the basic information. They promise to ring back. They never do.
I have to listen to about 10 minutes of the national anthem until I can speak to someone, who is very professional and takes down all the details. The Foreign Office say they´ll get back to me. More empty words.
“Mom, what are you feeling?” Thomas must have heard something about a mother´s instinct.
“Nothing. Just empty,” I answer.
In the meantime Melanie rings. She doesn´t have any news. We console ourselves. “He was definitely not on the plane because….” She interrupts as “important looking people” appear.
After a while she rings back. “He´s on the list! There´s a 99% chance that he was on the plane!”
What is she saying!
We speculate that he didn´t make the flight for any number of reasons: he had a severe migraine and vision problems, he´s paralysed, he has vomiting and diarrhoea, he had an accident with multiple serious bone fractures (it wouldn´t be the first time). The result is that he´s in hospital and can´t get in touch with us, etc.
We agree to ring each other if we hear anything, even if it´s the middle of the night.
Thomas says goodbye.
My head is clear. I even write an email to apologize for my absence from my Norwegian course tomorrow. I´m afraid that soon I´m going to be an emotional wreck.
We go to the doctor to get a sick note for my husband because he doesn´t feel up to working and wants to stay home. That´s ok. I wait in front of the building and race from one street corner to the other. Quietly I repeat the earth-shattering, fateful sentence: “Jens is dead.” Everything inside me was numb.
In the evening we watch a few special reports which show the first footage of the crash site. There isn´t much hope.
Around midnight we go for a walk and then to bed.
We hardly cry.
The telephone is next to our bed.
No one rings.
© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum