A Sydney mother who lost her 25-year-old son in the MH17 disaster says while Jack “didn’t come walking back in the door” she knows he would say to keep on fighting for the truth to come out.
Three years after the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down by a Buk missile over Ukraine, Meryn and Jon O’Brien and their daughter Bronwyn attended the opening of a new memorial in Holland to the 298 people who lost their lives
Among them were 38 Australian citizens and residents, including their son Jack, flying back on July 17, 2014, from a European backpacking trip to resume his studies.
The memorial at Vijfhuizen near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport features 298 young trees planted for each of those who died.
After the memorial’s opening, attended by the Dutch king and queen, the O’Briens visited their son’s tree, a crab apple, as planes took off from the nearby airport he flew out of.
“It’s a big thing for us to come back to the airport that Jack left from,” Ms O’Brien told AAP.
“We want Jack to walk back in the door but it’s a beautiful symbol,” she said of his tree, now hung with cards and ribbons sent by his grandmothers, friends, cousins and soccer mates.
Ms O’Brien said her “beautiful child” was returning to Australia “to get on with his life” and he had been passionate about the things he cared about.
A Dutch-led investigation, that includes Australians, has concluded that the Buk missile that downed MH17 was fired from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine from a launcher that had crossed the border from Russia.
The Russians insist the Ukrainian military downed the aircraft.
Mr O’Brien said some responsibility must lie with Ukraine for not closing its air space during conflict and with Malaysian Airlines, which with many other airlines continued to fly over Ukraine.
“We hold accountable the crew on the ground who shot the missile but there’s a level of responsibility and accountability all the way up the chain of command, all the way to the top,” he said.
The O’Briens know it may take years for the investigative and prosecution process to play out.
“The main game is that Jack didn’t come walking back in the door, but the truth would matter to Jack as well,” Ms O’Brien said.
“So I feel like he would say to us, ‘keep fighting for the truth to come out’.”
She said the 298 people whose names were read out by relatives at Monday’s ceremony had “lost the chance to live, so the truth matters”.
Many of those reading out the names were in tears, with their voices breaking with emotion.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima led 17 school children from the local community to lay sunflowers at the new memorial in a symbolic opening.