17 April 2015, Friday – Memorial Service in Cologne (3)

The cameramen in the Cathedral only film us from behind, which is good as we want to keep our anonymity and are afraid of certain tabloid newspapers. A baby´s cries reverberate through the Cathedral and the parents are unable to calm him. It´s as if all of our pain is concentrated in his little mouth and tries to scream its way out.
I´m shivering despite my warm jacket. The Cathedral is not heated and the cold creeps through the thick cloth and my shoes. My fingers are white as chalk and I can´t feel my fingertips.
The Premier speaks first at the memorial service which is simultaneously translated into several languages. We can follow it using the headphones provided. Spain´s Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz and Alain Vidalies, Minister of State (France) also speak. But I am particularly impressed by President Joachim Gauck´s thoughts. He says that there is no such thing as absolute security to protect us from technical defects or human error, not to mention human guilt. He emphasises that a life without trust would be unimaginable. No psychology and no technology can rid the world of evil.
My husband whispers to me that our late son is talking to him and commenting on what he thinks about everything. It´s his way of dealing with the terrible event. He says Jens thinks it´s very nice that the politicians are paying homage to him.
Organ music plays at the end of the service and together with other family members we move towards the exit. I recognise the mayors from Le Vernet and Prads by their sashes in the national colours.
The Cathedral square is completely blocked off. Far in the distance I see people and also cameras.
We board the waiting buses. A woman sits next to me whose entire body is shuddering, either from the cold or grief, I can´t say. She wipes away tears with a tissue, swallows some pills and at the same time types wildly into her mobile phone which seems to calm her.
The bus takes us back to the Maternushaus, where the press is barred from entering.
We can serve ourselves from the buffet but as I have no appetite I can only manage a hot soup.
Joachim Gauck, Hannelore Kraft and Angela Merkel are here, but I don´t happen to see Frau Merkel. Mr. Gauck is involved in an intense conversation with family members.
We talk briefly to a member of the victim support organisation Weisser Ring who is surprised that we´re taking the train back instead of flying. He says, “And you think you´ll get home?” He means this as a dig at the Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) and smiles mischievously.

15-04-17_kerze1_verschmiertAt the entrance we take one of the candles from the Cologne Cathedral which was lighted on the altar steps for Jens. We will light it every night at home and think of him as another way to keep him in our memory. In this way he is still alive.
The bus ride to the hotel takes longer because of traffic and a detour. I notice that my hand is still tightly clutching the wooden angel.
In the late afternoon we go for a walk on the Rhine. The sun is not compatible with our sorrow, which paralyses every step. I try to suppress a crying fit by inhaling and exhaling deeply.
We spend the evening in the hotel area reserved for family members. Only two tables are still occupied at the late hour. The wine puts us in a melancholy state of mind while behind us the alcohol makes a foreign family louder. Boisterous laughter; they scream at each other. Of course drinking a lot of alcohol isn´t a bad thing now and then, especially in our situation. Laughing is good for the psyche but the screaming is too much for me so we leave the room. I just want to go home. We leave tomorrow.

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum


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