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Nearly a week ago on 17 July 2014, 298 souls departed from this world in the most horrendous  manner. Innocent lives and cherished loved ones travelling in what was supposed to be the safest mode of transportation.

And what broke our heart is the fact that they were flying with our national airline which was shot down in Eastern Ukraine, a conflict zone between Ukraine and the so-called pro Russian separatists. And what is still harder to take is the fact that this is the second major disaster suffered by the airline with the loss of more than 500 lives in less than six months!

At about 11pm on  17 July, I was watching Al-Jazeera’s news when suddenly the newsreader stopped midway to announce the interfax news about a Malaysian airlines being shot down from a height 33,000 feet. I could not believe what I was hearing and woke up a sleeping relative to help confirm the news. As images started streaming in, we were sure that no one could have survived that  catastrophic event.

It was a shocking incident indeed and one which was fraught with the problems of trying to access and investigate the disaster scene, collecting and treating the dead bodies with dignity and identifying and transporting  them to their various countries of origin. Malaysia was able to negotiate with the rebels to get the bodies and the black box both of which they had earlier on refused to release despite international demand. Thanks to a quiet diplomacy on PM Najib’s part that was hailed by the international media.

The impact of this second disaster this year, an annus horribilis indeed, is too much for us Malaysians to bear. We are truly heart broken. Our VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR 2014  has suffered enormously from lack of overseas visitors and the belief that our National carrier could be jinxed!

My sister-in-law was virtually wailing her heart out when she first heard the news. SJ was a fearsome ex-senior civil servant who takes no nonsense from anybody and there she was sobbing like a child and one would have thought that she had a loved one on board that ill-fated MH17 , no she didn’t, it was just that she was devastated: the loss of those innocent passengers and the people they leave behind. The second time in such a short time. If SJ could cry like that what about those who, in effect, have their relatives or friends on the jetliner itself ? So thought I.

My deepest condolences to all relatives of the dead. No amount of words can describe the sadness we feel over these two incidences of disaster. We have yet to get over the disappearance of MH370 on March 8 2014 and now this. Truly  unprecedented in the aviation history of any country in peacetime.

We are a country of many races who constantly face friction from cultural angles and this kind of disaster somehow brings us together in sharing our grief.


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