Australia remembers MH17 victims at church services
SYDNEY // Australians were remembered those killed on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at church services on Sunday, as stories emerged of parents losing children, and doctors, teachers and a nun among the dead.
Twenty-eight of the 298 people on the plane apparently shot down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday were Australians, while eight more were permanent residents of the country.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who attended a Catholic mass in Sydney, spoke of the nation’s anguish, saying there would hardly be any Australians who hadn’t been emotionally affected by the tragedy.
“You look at the faces of the dead and they’re your neighbours, they’re your friends, they could be your kids because let’s face it, we are a people who like to travel,” he said.
“My own daughters flew on MH17 some months ago on their way home from Europe. So this is a tragedy which touches us deeply.”
Bishop Peter Comensoli, who led the mass at Sydney’s St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, said the downing of MH17 was not an accident, but “the outcome of a trail of human evil”.
In Melbourne, a special mass was held for the HIV-Aids experts and campaigners who had boarded the Malaysia Airlines flight as they made their way to that city for an international Aids conference.
The media has been filled with stories of the Australians killed, including 12-year-old Mo Maslin and his siblings, Otis, 8, and Evie, 10, who were travelling home with their grandfather Nick Norris.
Their parents Rin Norris and Anthony Maslin had decided to stay a few days longer in Amsterdam and so were not on the flight, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
In Melbourne, others were struggling to come to terms with the death of Hans van den Hende, his wife, Shaliza Dewa, and their three children Piers, 13, Marnix, 12, and Margaux, 8.
While in Queensland, the town of Toowoomba was mourning the deaths of Roger and Jill Guard, both doctors, who died as they were returning to Australia after attending a medical conference.
Catholic nun Philomene Tiernan, 77, who had been associated with Sydney’s Kincoppal-Rose Bay School, teaching thousands of students over more than 30 years is also among the dead.
“I don’t really care about the war between the Ukrainians and the Russians, but I would love to have my daughter come home,” said Paul Bell, whose teacher daughter Emma Bell died as she made her way back to Australia to her job teaching Aboriginal children.
“I have lost my daughter. She was only 30 years old. She was one of the most beautiful people you could ever know,” he said.
Mr Abbott said a national memorial service would be held once the families had had some time to grieve.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: July 20, 2014 04:00 AM