I knew one of the passengers on the flight that ended in the Ukraine. I knew her as well as any teacher could know a pupil. She was lively and loud, curious and smart. She graduated in 2013, after which she went to the north of Holland to study medicine. She died together with her brother - and when I learned that their parents were also on board, I could only think thank God. I realised later on what a strange thought that was - in no way would or could I ever wish such a tragic fate on anyone. But the underlying feeling, of course, was one of horror: what parent could bear losing both their children?
I have spent this weekend in gratitude and remembrance. In remembrance of two other pupils I knew well who died (one during the 2004 Tsunami) and in gratitude for my children, all the gifts in my life, and for life itself. I pottered around the house in appreciation of everything in it and went into town where I looked at its splendour as if with new eyes.
When I went into town it seemed as if I was more acutely aware of my surroundings than usual. I cycled past a couple whom I saw studying a piece of paper with instructions of some kind, surrounded by luggage and looking hot and sweaty indeed. I decided to cycle back to see if I could help in any way. As it turns out, they were Americans from Illinois and very grateful for my assistance. It was their first time in Europe, and they were starting their tour in Delft because, as the man said, "We have nothing remotely like this in the States. These quaint little streets and lovely old facades: all this couldn't be more different to where we come from." We walked together through the streets of Delft in search of their hotel. When we reached our destination we said goodbye like old friends. "If ever you find yourself in Illinois..." they called out after me.
Tomorrow I will be attending a memorial service where I will dwell in remembrance some more, and in appreciation for all that was and is.