IT’S simply inconceivable to imagine the pain of families that lost loved ones in last week’s Malaysia Airlines disaster in the Ukraine as they watch the shambolic recovery effort.
Already the disaster zone has been invaded by locals, rescue personnel, journalists, soldiers, militants and, finally, officials charged with running an investigation.
Many have had honourable motives — the removal of bodies to where they can be identified and repatriated to their loved ones; the salvage of evidence, imperative for any investigation; and even the reporting of the scene where the plane has come down, giving the world a picture of the extent of the horror of this disaster and some insight into how such an outrage occurred.
The motives of many others have been far less honourable.
Already there has been media comment on the absence of valuables at the scene and evidence of looting by human jackals.
One broadcaster has apologised for its reporter doing a piece to camera where they rifled through the belongings of a passenger before commenting that “we shouldn’t really be doing this”.
There has been the shameful but inevitable trade-off between the rebels controlling the area and the Ukraine government — that they will allow access to international investigators; that the plane’s black-box recorders will be handed over in spite of the early denial they had been found; and the offer of concessions on the release of bodies collected by the rebels and held in a nearby morgue, and now trucked to a railway station to be held in refrigerated wagons behind a locomotive.
But progress is painfully slow and, for those families in mourning, it must seem there is little dignity being afforded their loved ones.
Our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has an important leadership role in this disaster; consoling the families of those killed and leading our nation’s response in speaking to world leaders and ensuring our officials are part of the investigation and disaster-recovery effort.
Then there’s the matter of standing our ground against Russian President Vladimir Putin, seeking his co-operation with the repatriation effort and the international investigation.
On Sunday, Mr Abbott’s interviews reflected the enormity of those tasks but also the significant pain felt by so many Australians in the wake of this tragedy, including the reference to his daughters having flown home on a Malaysian Airlines flight only a few weeks ago.
It was one of those moments where many paused to reflect that this “unspeakable crime”, as it was termed by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop only a couple of days before, could as easily have befallen any number of Australians who make the long flight to the other side of the world every year.
Flying across continents where we know that far below us there may be a civil war raging, we can feel as far away from that conflict as we do when we are at home; reliant on the expectations that a passenger plane wouldn’t be targeted and that we are foreigners, with no part to play in these long-held disputes.
But the peace and affluence that we enjoy as Australians, that allows us to save for those long-dreamt of holidays and adventures overseas and to reunite with friends and loved ones both at home and abroad, is simply incomprehensible to the war-weary locals in a country such as the Ukraine and to those on both sides of a bitter separatist war.
So incomprehensible that those victims of a passenger plane seemingly shot out of the sky have tragically become unintended casualties of that war and their remains merely pawns in a sickening blame game between the two sides and their allies.
It falls to the nations from where those victims come to honour those lost, to support the families and friends during their grief and to demand our leaders seek the truth and support them in its pursuit.