30 June 2015, Tuesday – Compensation

°FOURTEEN WEEKS AFTER THE DISASTER°
We sit in the endless corridor at the district court building and hope that the door marked with the first letter of our surname will open and our names will be called. We have finally received the necessary documents and can apply for the certificate of heirship, as we are the principal heirs. Not until we have it can we settle things with Jens´s girlfriend.
It takes some effort to wait in an office because my thoughts revolve around other things. Jens is dead, and that is the one truth.
The official asks us into the room unexpectedly quickly. She´s not bothered that under French law only my maiden name is on the death certificate.
Horrified, I realize that my ID and cheque cards are still in the car. My forgetfulness has reached a whole new level. My handbag is there on the back seat for all to see. This would never have happened before.
The answer to the question of how long the process will take is a little vague: “First we have to find out from the district court in Düsseldorf whether or not your son had a will. That can take until September.“
Oh dear. Bureaucracy, I think.
We hurry to the car. My handbag with money, cards and ID is right where I left it. I breathe a sigh of relief. Stress like this is toxic for my nerves, which are already shot.
At home my stress level rises again as I read through my emails and see a message from the lawyer entitled “Germanwings Offer.“ At closer look I realise it´s about immaterial damage. We just had to bury our son and now we have to deal with this! I sense trouble brewing but read the email anyway. A lump sum payment has been set for the pre-impact terror suffered by the victims just before the crash, as well as a second amount for the pain inflicted on us. What upsets me immediately is that those entitled to compensation under the second amount are narrowly defined. In the wording of the email, these include: “parents, children, life partners and common-law spouses who share a common residence.“ Siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, etc., are not entitled to compensation unless a doctor certifies that their suffering is as great as those who are.
Why does Jens´s biological brother have to produce such a certificate? Our sons were very close until Jens was murdered. For Thomas, this goes beyond death. I can see that he is grieving deeply. And the grandparents? Normally their grandchildren are everything to them.
I admit that limits are necessary. But who wants to decide where they are? Some are expected to provide proof but others aren´t, regardless of the real relationship between the person and the deceased.
How was it in the Lubitz case? Despite serious psychological problems and the fact that he was taking strong psychiatric drugs, Lubitz was allowed to transport passengers. What kind of strange proof or certification would allow such a thing? What documents did he have to produce? There is reason to suspect that there must have been considerable gaps.
Instead, the airline simply turns the tables on the grieving relatives at what is already a terrible time. We are required to provide all kinds of proof.
We have to suffer from that fact that Germany is the only European country which has no compensation law for families of plane crash victims. A law is to be enacted in the autumn.
I´m starting to have the feeling that Lufthansa/Germanwings cannot begin to fathom how the disaster has devastated us. I wish Mr. Spohr could be forced to walk a mile in our shoes, just for a few weeks, to experience the full impact of how our bodies and souls are suffering. I say “forced“ deliberately, because doing this voluntarily would be quite strange.
I do not want to write about the amount of adequate financial compensation for our suffering as I don´t know how to express the passengers´ terror and our grief with all its consequences in one amount. There is no benchmark for cases like this.
Negotiations for an appropriate settlement are moving forward. Will there be a lawsuit?
And what about us? Will we find peace?
I would like to know how a mass murderer was allowed to fly an Airbus. Why?????
Bringing Jens back is impossible anyway. How I would love to hold him in my arms and hear his voice and laughter. There´s nothing I would rather do. However, as long as the question of blame has not been resolved, Lufthansa should at least assume moral responsibility for the immeasureable suffering the disaster has caused us. This has something to do with respect — for the victims, but also for us.
Baffled, with grief in my heart and mounting anger inside me, I switch off the computer.

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum

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