16 April 2015, Thursday – Memorial Service in Cologne (1)

In a few minutes we board our flight to Cologne. My feelings are all over the place as we have decided to attend the memorial service for the crash victims in the Cathedral. I am utterly depressed. While we´re showing our tickets a staff member comes up to us. She presses a small package wrapped in white serviettes into my hand and says, “Frau Zeisel sends her regards.“
I immediately picture her and remember her determination. She had been assigned to accompany us for part of our journey to Le Vernet on 27 March 2015 and back. I like to think about her.
The crew greets us at the entrance to the plane and offer their condolences.
The lump in my throat is getting bigger and bigger.
We take our seats and I unfold the serviettes to see what´s inside: packages of gummy bears to relieve ear pressure during takeoff and landing. My husband and I divide them between us. How nice of her! She was always giving us gummy bears when we flew together. I´m happy about this gesture and pop a few in my mouth.
No sooner do we take off than we land again, at least that´s how it seems. We are met by ground crew at the Cologne airport who offer us something to drink. Rescue workers with a stretcher stand a respectable distance away. For us? What an effort.
A staff member approaches us and introduces herself. She was assigned to accompany our son and his family on their journey to Le Vernet. He had talked about her.
She would like to meet us and asks us to send her regards to Thomas and his wife and daughter. I´m impressed by the nice gesture. Not only are the family members suffering from the disaster but also the Lufthansa/Germanwings staff. We have all experienced something unfathomable and have to cope with it.
A shuttle takes us to the hotel. We register at the Special Assistance Service Desk (SAT), whose team is assigned to take care of us. They put a gray band around our wrists which identifies us as relatives of the Germanwings victims and gives us access to the Cologne Cathedral and Maternushaus tomorrow.

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The international guests for the memorial service are staying at several hotels.
In the vestibule we bump into Johannes and Birgit, who we met at the emergency pastoral care meeting in Düsseldorf. They lost their daughter in the disaster. Birgit seems disorientated and exhausted, so we exchange just a few words although we are happy to see each other again. We have dinner in a separate room for family members and are asked to show our gray wristbands first.
Once again we see Birgit and Johannes at a neighbouring table. They´re clearly doing better and Johannes introduces us to his family who are there with them. The fiancé of the young woman who died on the plane nods at us. His eyes are sad but his gaze is warm.

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After dinner we sit for a long time in front of the big hotel windows and try to enjoy the night time city lights and Rhine panorama stretching out in front of us. Our loss weighs heavily. Tomorrow is going to be an especially sad day.

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum

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