The Alpine guide picks two violets from the side of the path and gives them to me.
It´s a nice gesture but now they´re going to wilt.
We begin with another topic. He talks about the beauty of the mountains, how he loves nature very much, and how colourful the trees on the hillside are in autumn. We take a detour as he would like to show me a stream hidden by shrubbery which flows next to the path. He picks up a stone for me to take home as a keepsake.
On the way back someone approaches us and introduces herself in fluent German. She explains that she is also German and has been running a campground nearby for many years. She has heard that we´re from Germany and offers to act as interpreter for us if necessary. Nothing else can go wrong now. Grit and Holger speak good French, I know a little and now we have this additional help.
The guide starts to tell us about the herbs which grow in the area and uses practical examples. I don´t know some of them.
Our walk ends in a vestibule outside the restaurant. The mayor of Prads joins us once more and we sit at a round table.
Monsieur Bietrix tells us that around noon on the day of the disaster he led the first group of rescue workers to the crash site.
We listen attentively.
Getting there was challenging. Steep cliffs with an incline of 60 to 80 percent made access difficult. The crash site reeked of kerosene. He had seen mostly only crumbs of the enormous airbus scattered around. He describes how shocking this sight was for him.
Then I think I understood that he saw three body parts, but this wasn´t translated for us. To spare us? Or have I misunderstood?
Before we leave we would like to go back to the chapel with flowers and candles to say goodbye to Jens. Grit organised them beforehand.
Some helpful soul has brought the mementos over here which were laid by our friends at the memorial. They are nicely arranged on the table. I lay a rose on it and put the rest in a vase which we place in front. We light the candles with a lighter.
We stay there for a long time. I stare at the photos of Jens — they attract my gaze as if by magic. Strange thoughts buzz around my head: … What happened? … Why are Jens´ photos here next to all these other victims in this little house in southern France? … Murder victims???? … Is there a triathlon suit lying here with the name Jens written on it? … A plane crash? … Crumbs? Jens???? … What am I doing here? …
Suddenly I can´t bear it any longer, turn around abruptly and rush to the door. Outside I sob uncontrollably. I think I´m alone and don´t notice the mayor waiting for us nearby. He hurries over immediately and embraces me, saying words of comfort.
We gather at the minibus for the trip back to the hotel. The French wave goodbye until they are out of sight. We are impressed by their warmth.
I check my emails at the hotel. Lufthansa informs us that on 27 April there will be a memorial service at the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. We will also receive a separate invitation from Spain.
Spontaneously the words tumble out: “No, I don´t want that! Tomorrow we fly back to Germany. And three days later we have to leave again for Spain!”
My husband is uncertain.
I go on: “We should stay home. First we have to gather our wits.”
I feel that Jens´ murder, our grief, the soul-destroying wait for the results of the identification and the transport of his remains and also the sad journeys in a relatively short time have all sapped my strength. Not only are my emotions shot but my body is also acting up. If only I could sleep better!
We spend the evening with our friends in the hotel restaurant. It´s good to be together.
© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum