Heartbreaking photos show a convoy of hearses with the bodies of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 victims being transported to a military barracks in the Netherlands on Thursday. Forensic experts there will identify the bodies, look for evidence that may shed light on precisely how they died -- and then return them to grieving families, weeks or even months from now.
There were 193 Dutch citizens among the 298 people aboard MH17, which took off from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur, and the nation has been in mourning ever since the plane was shot down last week over eastern Ukraine.
King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte were present on Wednesday when two military aircraft landed in Eindhoven with 40 plain wooden coffins. The Last Post, a military funeral call for people killed in war, was played as the plain wooden coffins arrived and were unloaded. The nation observed a minute of silence. Queen Maxima, who was present at the ceremony, was in tears.
On Thursday, thousands of people lined up along the 62 mile (100 km) route to watch the hearses travel from Eindhoven to the military base at Hilversum. As the procession passed, drivers pulled to the side and watched in silence. Some threw flowers on the hearses, others clapped in tribute. The scene is likely to be repeated as more of the remains are brought home.
In a multinational effort, the Dutch are leading the post-crash investigation, with U.K. experts examining data from the two flight recorders; Australia has offered police officers to help secure the crash site. Currently, there are 50 officers in London on standby to be deployed if needed, Australian PM Tony Abbot said.
After the chaos at the crash site, where bodies lay exposed for days in an open field, the ceremonies in the Netherlands have been somber, quiet, dignified. The respectful treatment doesn't mitigate the violence or senselessness of the victims' deaths. But perhaps it helps convey to anguished families that the world honors each unique life that was lost.
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