MH17 mourners return dutifully to pay their respects

A Netherlands flag flying at half-mast as a hearse carrying victims passes. Credit: Reuters

On Wednesday, as 40 coffins were brought to Hilversum's military base, a few hundred people stood in the streets of the town to throw flowers, shed tears and return dignity to the victims of the MH17 tragedy.

On Thursday, as 74 more coffins were driven through the somber streets, a routine had formed: many of the same mourners clutched sunflowers and wiped tears.

Today, as more human remains are brought here for identification, people will gather again and cry again. And they will do the same tomorrow.

Family members have stood by as each batch of coffins arrive. Credit: Reuters

Hilversum lost three families on the doomed flight. Its people have many reasons to mourn. Gerry Menke, a former resident who moved to Australia as a teenager, had been in town showing his wife the place where he grew up. Both were killed as they flew to Malaysia from Amsterdam.

And there are many other heartbreaking stories to emerge from here. No wonder Hilversum is hurting so much. It is a small city, around the size of Carlisle.

But given the quiet dignity of the last three days, the more accurate comparison might be with Wootton Bassett, the royal Wiltshire town that welcomed the coffins of British service personnel killed in Afghanistan.

The spirit of Wootton Bassett is thriving in this community. People are determined to return to these streets - every day - until the final remains have been returned.

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