Germany contends with grief over deadly plane crash

Many people in the city of Montabaur, where the pilot who crashed the Airbus lived, are asking why he did it.

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    In Haltern am See and in Montabaur the most frequently asked one was - "Why?" [AP]
    In Haltern am See and in Montabaur the most frequently asked one was - "Why?" [AP]

    In the past four days, I have been to two western German towns struck by the Flight 4U 9525 tragedy. One was struggling with grief, the other with disbelief.

    The Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium School in Haltern am See on Wednesday was awash with emotion and shock at the loss of 16 teenagers and their two teachers. The town's Roman Catholic Church had opened its doors for those who wanted to solace in prayer. The flags on official buildings flew at half-mast and in the streets were representatives of Germany's Seelsorger organisation - people whose task is to try to provide comfort to those dealing with the aftermath of bereavement.

    At the school itself and in the news conferences given on that day the legions of media, German and foreign were treating this story as a plane crash, a tragic accident.

    Al Jazeera's Kavita Sharma interviewed a German music teacher outside the school who told her about one of her violin students who had missed her class, because she had been on the plane. She said she still couldn't take it in. That sentiment seemed to be the narrative of the incident on Wednesday morning.

    On Wednesday, few people had heard of the Germanwings co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, fewer still would have imagined that a trained pilot would wish to kill himself and in so doing intentionally kill 149 more innocent people.

    Lubitz was from Montabaur, about 45 minutes drive north of Frankfurt. It is a sleepy affluent town, in a sleepy affluent part of western Germany. Most people here are polite and courteous. The idea that a member of the community might be responsible for the deaths of 149 innocent people seems incongruous among the comfortable affluence of Montabaur.

    At the flying school Lubitz flew at, there were few people present on Friday. The hangars were shut and the airstrip desolate. In the town itself, like in Haltern official flags flew at half mast, but the atmosphere felt different. In Haltern, people wanted to express their solidarity with the relatives of the victims, not so in Montabaur. The media scrum that descended on the town made many residents try to avoid them.

    When the crash first happened, I reported live on the story from Al Jazeera's Berlin bureau for several hours, thinking, like many other journalists no doubt, that this incident was a tragic accident.

    In deploying to Haltern,  Kavita, myself and our cameraman Gil Holten thought we would be covering the human emotion of the loss the community was feeling. I don't think any of us imagined we would end up outside the house of the parents of the co-pilot shortly after police took away evidence as part of a criminal investigation.

    In the past 48 hours, we have learned a fair amount about Andreas Lubitz, but each new piece of information seems to raise many more questions.

    But in Haltern am See and in Montabaur the most frequently asked one was - "Why?"

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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