One for each life, one for each loved one
“Our loved ones went away together on 17 July 2014. They left Amsterdam as a group and, in the memorial forest, they are also reunited as a group.”
~ Evert van Zijtveld - chair of the MH17 Disaster Foundation
On 17 July 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 departed from Schiphol for Kuala Lumpur. On board were 283 passengers and 15 crew members. The aeroplane never arrived at its destination. Above the Eastern Ukrainian village of Hrabove, it was hit by an air missile and crashed. There were no survivors. Exactly three years later - on 17 July 2017 - the Dutch National Monument will be opened close to Schiphol. A memorial forest with 298 trees, one for each victim.
Relatives of the victims jointly chose the design for a memorial forest at Park Vijfhuizen close to Schiphol airport, created by landscape architect Robbert de Koning. The forest takes the form of the black memorial ribbon that is often worn as a symbol for the disaster. Relatives chose a tree to represent their loved one(s) from ten different species, provided by Ebben Nurseries. The ribbon of trees rises out of the landscape in higher and lower slopes, like a three-dimensional ribbon in the park. Around the forest are thousands of sunflowers. In the middle of the memorial is an amphitheatre in which a monument will be placed, bearing all the victims’ names.
The planting of the living monument
Vijfhuizen, 18 March 2017. It’s typical Dutch weather, grey and wet. Ebben Nurseries employees arrive at the monument early in the morning. The construction work is not yet finished, but it’s easy to get a sense of how it will look. The shape of the memorial ribbon is visible, the planting locations are ready, the tree stakes have been installed and paths have been laid between the trees.
A moving silence
The day begins with the planting of the first tree, a lime tree for the captain of flight MH17. In a short ceremony, outgoing minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, the chair of the MH17 Disaster Foundation, Evert van Zijtveld, the Malaysian Ambassador, Ahmad Nazri Bin Yusof, and the Managing Director of Malaysia Airlines, Tan Sri Mohamad Nor Yusof, explained the meaning of the monument. Hope, memory, courage, glimmers of light and a living monument for all relatives and the next generations. A moving minute of silence falls when the first tree is planted.