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Memorial forest unveiled on third anniversary of MH17 crash

© Remko de Waal, ANP, AFP | Dutch King Willem-Alexander (centre left) and Queen Maxima (centre) unveil the monument for the MH17 victims in Vijfhuizen, on July 17, 2017

Text by Louise NORDSTROM

Latest update : 2017-07-17

Three years after a missile shot down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers on board, families and loved ones attended the unveiling of a “living memorial” in honour of their loved ones.

A ribbon of trees, one planted for every victim, was inaugurated in the Vijfhuizen park near Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport where the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 took off on July 17, 2014.

The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed over eastern Ukraine. While an international investigation has concluded that the aircraft was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile transported from Russia and fired from [pro-Russian] rebel-controlled territory. Despite this, no action has been taken. Moscow has vigorously denied any involvement.

Highly symbolic

"A tree symbolises hope and future," the Victims’ Families Association said in a statement ahead of the inauguration which was opened by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and the country’s caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte before officials and some 2,000 relatives and friends of those who perished in the flight.The association said the sunflowers lining the forest will illuminate the site, and represent "the sunflower fields in eastern Ukraine where some parts of the plane wreckage were found."

A steel structure shaped like an eye, aimed towards the sky and bearing the names of the victims is in the heart of the forest.

‘A hole in our hearts’

The vast majority of those who perished in the downing of the aircraft were Dutch, but also included Australians, Britons, Malaysians and 13 other nationalities.Evert van Zijtveld, who lost his 19-year-old daughter Frederique and 18-year-old son Robert-Jan in the missile-strike, said the tragedy had “left a hole in our hearts”.

Zijtveld said the victims’ families "shall not give up and shall not be silenced until those who are responsible have been brought to justice," AP quoted him as saying during Monday’s emotional ceremony.

The memorial was designed by Dutch artist Ronald A. Westerhuis and landscape architect Robbert de Koning and has been funded by donations.

Date created : 2017-07-17

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