Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Speech by Prime Minister Rutte at National Remembrance Ceremony MH17 disaster

Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the National Remembrance Ceremony for the victims of the MH17 air disaster, Amsterdam, 10 November 2014.

What if…?

What if their holiday had started a day later?

What if the flight had been delayed?

What if I wake up and find it’s all been a bad dream?

Ladies and gentlemen, and above all, relatives and friends of the victims: which of you has not asked yourselves, ‘What if?’ since July 17th?

It’s a question that has no answer.

One that wells up inside us and at the same time makes us feel helpless.

Because there is no ‘What if?’.

There is only the harsh reality of 298 deaths – 298 people.

196 of them were Dutch.

Their lives will forever be unfinished.

Their voices will never again be heard.

Their presence, their talents, their friendship and their love – it has all been taken from you.

Just like that.

On July 17th 2014, a carefree ‘good-bye’ became an abrupt farewell.

Just like that.

Just like that, the children and grandchildren, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandmas and grandpas, husbands, wives and friends aboard flight MH17 were gone on a journey, never to return.

Today, Ina Kroon from Woudrichem would have turned 53.

Today, Sanjid Singh from Kuala Lumpur would have celebrated his 41st birthday.

It is hard to comprehend that their lives and the lives of so many others have been cut short

‘Watched the news 20 times’, the Dutch national poet, Anne Vegter, wrote.

‘Watched the news 20 times and it is still true: suddenly caught in the web of someone else’s war.’

Everyone who lost a loved one on July 17th is grieving in his or her own way.

Because there aren’t any rules about how to cope with grief.

There isn’t a script for personal loss.

There is no plan for mourning.

But there is solidarity.

And in the days and weeks after the disaster, our unity gave expression to a shared sense of loss.

We saw it for ourselves: when death cuts such a wide swathe, so close to home, people reach out to one another.

We were united in shock, united in anger, united in silence.

As on the day of national mourning.

I fervently hope that those of you trying to come to terms with a personal loss found some small measure of comfort and hope in this shared feeling.

That it will help you find the courage and strength to go on.

To pick up the threads and move forward.

Tomorrow, the day after and in the years ahead.

Despite all the uncertainty, the tears and the difficult times still to come.

The first Christmas, the first holiday, the first July 17th.

With the question that keeps coming back: ‘What if?’

None of us can answer that question.

But what we can do is keep working to ensure that each and every victim receives a dignified farewell.

That final good-bye, for which some of you are still waiting, and which you need in order to go on with your lives.

With every fibre of our being, we want these 298 people to get their due.

Not only today, at this national ceremony, where we pay our respects and honour their memory. But also in the future.

Today we will read their names aloud.

They will not be forgotten.

The memories you have of them – beautiful, heart-warming and moving memories – will remain with you always.

Your own unique memories of unique individuals.

Yet individuals who perhaps had one thing in common.

They lived in the here and now, and were full of vitality and plans.

That is clear from nearly all the personal accounts we heard and read after July seventeenth.

Wouldn’t it be good to take something of their strength into our future?

In that way, they will live on.

In that way, they will remain a source of inspiration.

In that way, they will remain near to us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

What if this should happen?

What if you succeed in finding comfort and hope in their legacy, in all the good they leave behind?

What if the courage to go on lies in those everlasting and loving memories?

I wish that for you.

We wish that for you.

With all our hearts.