27 March 2015, Friday – Journey to Le Vernet (1)

The newspapers are full of reports that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately initiated the descent. Lubitz lived just 1 km from our son´s flat. Like Jens, he took part in various sporting events. Had Jens ever met his murderer? Perhaps at a marathon or triathlon? We will never know. We will also never know what happened on board in the last minutes before the airbus plowed into the mountainside. The passengers surely felt the descent, must have noticed the cliffs approaching. The pilot and crew fought to break down the locked cockpit door — the data from the voice recorder proves this. Panic certainly must have broken out on board. Jens had a fear of death. How long did he have to suffer? How long?? The mental image torments me and will probably never let me go. Why is Lufthansa just now thinking about introducing the “two-crew” cockpit rule already required in many countries?
It is afternoon. The taxi driver picks us up and takes us to the airport. He is surprised about the parking space we direct him to (Germanwings gave us specific instructions), as it is for, as he called them, “special cases.” Three staff members meet us at the entrance – a top airport official and two women who introduce themselves as Frau Zeisel and Frau Gerbert.
We sit down. They try to involve us in conversation, offer us sandwiches and drinks and are very kind. They will accompany us on the trip.
I need to go to the toilet. Frau Zeisel takes my arm firmly, as if I would break down at any time. It´s just a few metres´ walk to the lavatory. She ignores my comment that I´m stable. I disappear behind the door and she calls after me: “Please don´t lock the door!” Although I roll my eyes I follow her instructions as she means well. I´m sure she received instructions.
We board the flight. Tears run down my face and I can´t stop them. The entire crew are standing at the entrance to greet us and express their condolences. We are surprised.
We take off for Düsseldorf at 5:30 PM. Frau Zeisel and Frau Gerbert sit nearby. Frau Zeisel gives us small packages of gummy bears before takeoff. “For your ears”, she adds. That´s nice.
I look down at the earth below and think: “If we crash we´ll be with Jens.” I like the idea although I like to fly. The disaster hasn´t changed that.
We begin our descent.
Frau Gerbert later says to me: “The descent made you nervous, didn´t it? You were thinking about your son.”
I can only nod.
A shuttle brings us directly from the flight to the hotel, where Melanie and her father are waiting. With Frau Zeisel close behind I manage to make it to the meeting room which has been reserved for us. I feel like the walking wounded. Protesting doesn´t help. She doesn´t release her firm hold. My husband´s not doing much better. Jens´ Japanese colleagues meet us at the entrance and introduce themselves.
We embrace Hans and Melanie. Frau Zeisel and Frau Gerbert leave us alone.
We sit down and everyone talks about how shocked they are. It´s the first time that we´ve met since the crash. The Japanese sit at a neighbouring table. Jens´ girlfriend is talking about an emergency response psychologist who treated family members at the Düsseldorf airport immediately after the disaster. Her name is Dr. Rau and soon she appears. Why do I need a psychologist? Nevertheless I put on a friendly face.
A brunette woman and a sporty guy approach us, introduce themselves and explain that they will be accompanying us. I´m confused about all the people and ask about Frau Zeisel and Frau Gerbert. I was told they had just left. (Somehow I´m missing some of what´s going on around me. I feel as if I were in a fog.)
Slowly I understand. From now on Christa and Alexander, who are now sitting next to us, will stay with us. It doesn´t take long before we all use our first names. From the beginning both of them stand out due to their kind and discreet manner.
Before she leaves Dr. Rau presses her business card into my hand. It reads: Senior Emergency Response Psychologist, Düsseldorf. I shove her card carelessly into my trouser pocket.
We stand up and go to our hotel room. In front of the door we find a miniature book titled “Leave the Shadows Behind You.” A business card peeks out. The gift is from Frau Gerbert, one of the first people assigned to look after us. I will often leaf through it. My favourite proverb from it is:

“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”
(Chinese proverb)

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum

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