The car journey to North Rhine Westphalia is uneventful and we know the route quite well from happier times. We find the hotel in Kaiserswerth which is also where the meeting is taking place. It´s reserved just for the families for the next two days. We go to our room and unpack.
I check my mobile and find an email from our lawyer. It says that Lufthansa´s lawyer has informed us that they are unable to keep the original date for the return of the victims´ remains and a new date could not yet be set. Attached is a press release with the headline “Return of the Germanwings victims postponed indefinitely“, for immediate release to the media. So our loved ones won´t be returned from Marseille to Düsseldorf on the 9th and 10th of June after all?
“Are they playing mourners´ roulette with us?“ It´s the only thing I manage to say. My throat closes up.
We go to lunch. Other family members gradually show up, most of them from North Rhine Westphalia.
We know each other from the first time and we´re like a big family. We each deeply understand how the other feels. I feel secure.
Most of them haven´t heard the news and are upset as they check their smart phones.
The meeting begins. We sit in a circle and talk about how we´ve been doing. A few people cry. Everyone is suffering from loss and grief, which has been tremendously disrupted by all the confusion surrounding the impending return of the remains. There are also some family members who have only just heard that the date (9-10 June) when their loved ones are to be returned to Düsseldorf has been postponed. That´s appalling.
We find out which experts will talk to us tomorrow, among them three representatives from Germanwings. I wouldn´t want to be in their shoes. After dinner my husband and I walk to the Rhine. We like this river. Every time we see it, I hold up my hand in greeting and say “hello, Rhine,“ not caring what people think.
We go to a riverside restaurant we know, find a table outside, drink an altbier (it´s hard to find in Saxony) and watch the glowing red sun disappear behind the riverbank opposite. A beautiful natural
spectacle but tears are running down my cheeks. I can´t help it. We often used to come here with Jens and the rest of the family. How wonderful that was!
At dusk we make our way back to the hotel.
Despite the late hour a few family members are still awake. They´re standing at small round tables outside and we join them. The “drinkers´ buffet“ is well-stocked with wine and beer so we can drown our sorrows together. And our sorrow is vast.
© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum