Three years after the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine, a new living forest memorial for the passengers killed was unveiled in Netherlands.
A total of 298 trees, one for every victim, was planted in the shape of a green ribbon in the Vijfhuizen park near Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport where the ill-fated flight en route to Kuala Lumpur took off on July 17, 2014. An international investigation concluded that a Russian-made BUK missile transported from Russia and fired from [pro-Russian] rebel-controlled territory shot down the Boeing 777.
Accompanied by the Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his wife, Queen Maxima, as well as Dutch government officials, around 2,000 relatives of those killed joined the gathering to mark the third anniversary of the disaster.
In front of the wall is a steel structure shaped like an eye, aimed towards the sky with the names of those lost engraved on it. Designed by Dutch landscape artist Ronald Westerhuis, the so-called “forest monument” is also surrounded by sunflowers, which according to the memorial website “refer to the sunflower fields in eastern Ukraine where some parts of the plane wreckage were found.”
As for the tree, the victims’ families association said it symbolizes “hope and future in many cultures. We not only want to honor the MH17 victims but also want to create a place where everyone can keep their memories of the 298 passengers alive.”
The vast majority of the passengers aboard were Dutch, but there were 38 Australian residents and 15 other nationalities as well.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) July 17, 2017
‘A Beautiful Symbol’
Australians Meryn and John O’Brien and their daughter Bronwyn were among those who joined the unveiling. The family lost their 25-year-old son and brother Jack, who was flying back from a European backpacking trip to resume his studies.
“It’s a big thing for us to come back to the airport that Jack left from,” Meryn O’Brien said, per 9News. “We want Jack to walk back in the door but it’s a beautiful symbol,” she said of his tree which was filled with cards and ribbons sent by his grandmothers, friends, cousins and soccer mates.
The third anniversary of Flight MH17’s came as international investigators continued their painstaking inquiry aimed at prosecuting those responsible for shooting down Flight 17 and killing all the passengers and crew. About 100 people are wanted in connection with the disaster.