Apr 19, 2014

The Kinship of Sorrow

I was on surgical floor duty on March 8, 2014. It was an ordinary morning with everyone anxious to go home early when a random swipe on Twitter starts an infinite roller coaster of emotions.
It was learned that MH370 from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Beijing (PEK) has "lost contact" shortly after departure with 227 passengers and 12 crew onboard.
As a fellow Malaysian and frequent flyer of Malaysia Airlines, one's heart missed a beat. While preparing for the worst, we repeatedly prayed to God Almighty that it be a minor error, that no souls were lost, that the incident would end safely. Worldwide, #MH370 and #PrayforMH370 were trending on all social media as netizens wake up not expecting a sophisticated Boeing 777 would simply vanish into thin air.
I can only imagine the agony and frustration of family members later that day as irresponsible social media users spread false information about the missing aircraft. Stuck on Al Jazeera English (our hospital router blocks all other news sources, AJE is the one our IT department apparently missed) for the next 20 hours, helplessness developed into fear and anger as numerous questions were raised about appropriate actions - why was the authorities informed so late? Why are there false travel documents? Why was the transponders turned off? Possibly even deliberately? We were haunted with newsflash of agonised family members at both PEK and KUL as journalists rush to the story and endless theories like sharks smelling blood.

The days that followed were as heartbreaking as it was confusing for all. Amidst the shorthanded and inexperienced Malaysian authorities fumbling with the initiation of search and rescue operations, our ASEAN neighbours, Australia, UK, and many more nations joined in the search in what is possibly the worst (and most clueless) air disaster in decades. As days went into weeks, family members of multiple nations began demanding answers from our authorities, which we scarcely have. Chinese families staged protests, pressured diplomats, went on the media, and even started a nationwide boycott fuelled by the void of information about their loved ones on board. Others, such as Maira Nari, daughter of chief steward Andrew Nari channels her loss with great composure and integrity on Twitter.

Across a nation divided over a recent high court sentence and political stance, Malaysians unite in praying for missing MH370 in an unprecedented scale and momentum. People of all color and creed were one in their daily prayers - that the aircraft be found soon and its passengers and crew safe and sound.

Over the weeks we gradually started to accept the fact that the aircraft and all its passengers are "lost", it united aviation photographers from around the world to pay a tribute to something forgotten all the while - the aircraft herself. Unsurprisingly 9M-MRO on her last flight as MH370 had a fruitful 12 years in service, bearing the flag of Malaysia across exotic nations during Malaysia Airlines' better times. I particularly loved a black-and-white 9M-MRO landing in KUL on January 30, 2014 - one of her last landings back home, which the photographer aptly titled "Oscar, you're 'home'."
As search operations continue against an uphill battle in the Southern Indian Ocean after the aircraft has gone missing for more than a month, we continue our prayers for the quick salvage of wreckage and revelation of truth for all involved. As a Malaysian this tragedy has struck me as deeply as it has struck families and staff of Malaysia Airlines. My family has flown Malaysian for innumerable years for better or worse and has always trusted her on safety, reliability, and the professionalism of her crew. It is a harrowing tragedy that struck close to home and has reminded us of loving each other more. Through flowing rivers of sorrow, it has doubtlessly united people of different races and ideals, taught us more about tolerance, and befriended people that would otherwise never cross paths.
Wherever you are, we hope you're in a better place, MH370.


SleeplessInKL said...

goosebumps all over while reading this. still praying for MH370 :(