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.’
This month marks the one year anniversary of the shooting of flight MH17 in Ukraine. On July 17th 2014, 298 people were killed. Among them were 196 Dutch people.
This week at Radio EenVandaag we are reviewing the fatal flight: families of the victims are slowly recovering from their immense loss but are still regularly confronted with news coverage about MH17.
On July 17th there is a memorial service for the families of the victims in Nieuwegein, one of the speakers at the memorial is the 27-year old Marieke Poelmann. She lost both of her parents in the Tripoli airplane crash in 2010 and wrote a book about her loss: ‘Alles om jullie heen is er nog.’ In Radio EenVandaag we are talking to Poelmann about her experiences.
You can never be unreasonable again
Final episode of the short interview series about how young people deal with loss and grief. Today: Jojanneke van den Bosch. She lost both of her parents. „The people surrounding someone who lost his or her parents can take over a small part of the parents’ role. Doing nothing is always a bad idea.”
By: MARIEKE POELMANN
What is it like to lose your parents at a young age and what’s the best way to deal with that by the people surrounding an orphan? Communications expert Jojanneke van den Bosch (39) answers questions like these. Questions that people are afraid to ask, because death is still taboo. With her website weeswijzer.nu and her book So, You’re An Orphan Now Van den Bosch wants to use her own experiences about becoming an orphan to help others. She lost her father and her mother, five months apart. She and her sister were left behind, all on their own when she was just 14 years old.
„Orphans don’t really stand out in our society because we have a very mediatised and conditioned image of an orphan. People think about Oliver Twist, Annie, or Harry Potter. Somebody who is really sad or really tough. Apart from that, it’s still a taboo. Not because these children are a taboo themselves, but because mortality is. If your child tells you a classmate’s mother died, you think: damn it, that could have been me.
I want people to know how many children lose their parents in The Netherlands. I calculated those numbers myself, the Central Bureau of Statistics never investigated it. Later on they finally did, in 2013 the Central Bureau of Statistics published a report stating that there are 34.000 orphans and half-orphans under 18 in The Netherlands. According to the CBS, that number is raised every year by 6.000 new (half)orphans. But when you’re 20 years old, in a way you’re also still a child. So if you add young people up to 23 years old, that adds another 25 percent.”
I’m a fighter, just like my mom
Short interview series about how young people deal with loss and grief. Today: Linda de Best. She lost her father when she was still a toddler and her mother a year ago. „Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost.”
By: MARIEKE POELMANN
Linda de Best (25) was only four years old when her father ended his life by jumping in front of a train. Linda herself was suffering from leukemia at the time. She was left behind, together with her mother, and was cured. She grew up as a happy child and was very close to her mother. Until her mother got hit by a car last year. She ended up in a coma and died. Linda talks about how the loss of her parents dictates her life, then and now.
„In kindergarten I raised my finger and said: ‘my father is dead’. I got kicked out of class, the other children weren’t supposed to hear it. I found out about this in my mom’s old notes, I can’t remember it myself. I never knew my mother kept a diary at the time, I found the notebooks after she died. I could read that she was desperate at times, I never knew about that either. I wish I could talk to her about it.”
How do I put this on Facebook?
Short interview series about how young people deal with loss and grief. Today: Katja Renkers. She lost her parents and her brother, less than a year ago in the MH17 disaster. She talks about how personal loss becomes public through media and social media.
By: MARIEKE POELMANN
Katja Renkers (20) was 19 when her parents and brother Tim died in the MH17 crash. She was still living at home. Surrounded by photos of her father, mother and brother, Katja talks about her loss.
„Have fun and I love you. Those are the last things we said to each other in our family WhatsApp group. Ten minutes before take-off. I only opened it twice after July 17th. A week after the crash everything was still in there. A couple of months later I got a notification that my mother had been removed from the group and my brother had left the group. I was shocked. I still don’t get it. That must mean that someone else is using their phone or their phone number, but why would anyone do something like that?
I cried when I dropped them off at the airport. I felt so stupid about that, I was going to see them again in just four weeks. I had already booked my own vacation with my friends, if I hadn’t I would’ve come with them. As I drove off, I looked at them one last time through my rear view mirror. I almost hit another car. Luckily my dad didn’t see it, I was driving his lease car. They were worried about me returning home safely from Schiphol airport in that car. If only I had been more worried about them.”
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.