In this episode of Zwaailicht (Beacon), show host Wilfred Kemp interviews Marieke Poelmann about the indescribable day when she heard her parents had both died in the Tripoli airplane crash. She wrote the book ‘Alles om jullie heen is er nog’ (Everything Around Them Is Still There) about her loss. The best friends of her parents, Johan en Marian Huitema, share their memories. Assalina Hamming, a volunteer at Slachtofferhulp (Victim Assistance, a non-profit organization in The Netherlands) talks about how she assisted Marieke and her two brothers. How do you cope with such an immense loss? Finally, family and friends all come together in the Dominicanen kerk (church) in Zwolle to memorize Peter and Adri Poelmann.
On May 12 2010 the parents of Marieke Poelmann (writer and freelance journalist, 1988) died in the Tripoli airplane crash. They were on their way home from a vacation in South Africa.
On May 12th both of Marieke Poelmann’s parents are killed in the airplane crash near Tripoli. They were on their way home after a vacation in South Africa. Marieke is 22 at the time. She recently started a career in journalism and suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of the news. What happens next is overwhelming: family detectives, victim assistance, banks and insurance companies all line up at her parents’ doorstep. Suddenly, she also shares the responsibility with her older brother Boris for their handicapped brother Sandor, who had a brain tumor when he was 11 years old. Not to mention the immense loss and grief that presents itself, which Poelmann describes incisively in her book Alles om jullie heen is er nog.
“Because of the accident, I lost my faith in life. That is slowly coming back to me, yes. Around the time I turned 25 I noticed that I started feeling stronger again, I made my own choices and stopped seeing life as a burden. Now, I try to focus on what I want from life. My boyfriend helped me a lot changing my perspective. He encouraged me to stop only looking back, but to look ahead as well. He taught me to live in the now, and how to make myself comfortable right where I am.
‘In the months after July 17th 2014, I discovered that being a victim of a national disaster is something that stays with you forever. Maybe it’s like a covenant you sign involuntarily, without the possibility to withdraw or resign. People who say that life goes on mean it well, but with a loss of this magnitude, parts of your life actually stop. They are never coming back. That does not get better. It will never be over and it will never be alright. The only thing that happens, is that it it becomes bearable. Time has its way with it, whether you want it to or not. For years I refused to accept that. I resisted, the grief wasn’t supposed to get better. My fathers hands around my cold feet, my mothers voice at my bedside. If the grief would wear off, I would lose them again. It took me quite some time to realize it doesn’t work that way. I discovered that there is one part of them I could never lose; the part that is in me.’
I don’t want to be indifferent
Short series about how young people deal with grief. Today part two: Ingrid Burggraaff. She lost both of her parents and her brother in the airplane crash in Tripoli. Ingrid had to see the crash site with her own eyes before she could realize they were really gone.
By: MARIEKE POELMANN
Ingrid Burggraaff (35) lost her parents and younger brother in the airplane crash in Tripoli. She was left behind as the only family member. Five days after the crash she decided to travel to Libya herself. She talks about how that visit helped her to deal with reality.
„I had to go. The government discouraged us to go but I had to be with them. I didn’t want to leave my father, my mother and my brother alone, so far away in a foreign country. So five days later I was on a plane to Tripoli. I had already given the forensics all the information about their identification and they had taken my DNA material, I could go.
I work for an international company and my colleagues made sure my flight and visa were all in order. When I arrived at Tripoli airport, it was chaos. I felt so bad about it happening there, this place felt like it had nothing to do with my parents. The vacation to South Africa wasn’t something they would do every year, to the contrary. It was the second time ever they left Europe and everything was carefully planned out. Tripoli was supposed to be a simple overlay for them. There was a hostile atmosphere at the airport when I got there. Dilapidated buildings and armed soldiers. My husband and I were placed in a small room. What am I doing here? I tried to explain why we were there, but nobody spoke English. Finally, our visas turned out to be waiting for us right after customs. We were welcomed by Kenyon Disaster Management, they had even arranged a Dutch interpreter.
Maybe I had the wrong day
Five years ago today, an airplane crashed in Tripoli, Libya. Marieke Poelmann lost both of her parents and wrote a book about it. For nrc.next she interviews others who suffered the same fate. This week: Maryam Massarrat, who heard during her vacation that her father was on board of the crashed plane.
By: MARIEKE POELMANN
Today, it’s May 12th. Exactly five years after the Tripoli airplane crash where 103 people died. Among them there were seventy Dutch passengers, who were returning from their vacation in South Africa. One of them was the father of Maryam Massarrat (35). We met in Amsterdam to talk about the first moments after hearing about the crash.
One of the first things people always ask me, is how I heard about the accident five years ago. What happened on that day for you?
“On May 12th 2010 I was on vacation with my sister in Iran, we were visiting my grandmother. I was supposed to stay at my uncle’s place that night and arrived at 11 pm. I never got past their garden. My family was waiting for me outside. ‘Why aren’t we going in?’, I asked them. They stopped me. I remember thinking: this isn’t a really warm welcome. ‘We have to tell you something’, my uncle said. ‘Something bad happened.’ I asked him if it was my mother, or my sister. ‘Is it dad?’, I finally asked. ‘Did his plane crash?’.
I knew my father was supposed to come home that day from his vacation in South Africa. When my uncle said yes I got dizzy. I felt this silence in my head, everything went past me. I clung onto the first thing I saw, a parked car covered in dust. I had to hold on to something. We returned to my grandmother and sister immediately. My family had booked us a flight home to The Netherlands that same night. They told me the news at the latest possible moment, just in time to catch the plane.”
Marieke Poelmann lost her parents in the Tripoli airplane crash five years ago, while she had just interned at the Dutch national broadcaster ‘NOS’. Back then she reported the news, now suddenly she was part of it. She wrote a book about her experiences, her parents and the aftermath of the disaster.