Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the MH17 commemoration ceremony, Vijfhuizen

Ladies and gentlemen,

To suddenly lose your daughter or son.

Your mother or your father.

Your grandchild.

Your brother or sister.

Your best friend.

It seems unreal.

Until the unreal becomes real.

And the future suddenly seems empty and bleak.

Today, exactly five years ago, loss became a lifelong reality for each of you.

Suddenly there was a life before and after MH17.

And for many of you, it must feel like you’re reliving 17 July 2014 all over again.

The Dutch writer Bert Schierbeek once wrote a short poem about bereavement. In it he eloquently captures, in just a few words, how loss, disbelief and acceptance go together. The title is ‘I think’, and it goes like this:

I think

when it’s raining

please don’t let them get wet

and when it’s stormy

don’t let them catch cold

and I also think

that thinking like that

doesn’t help

because never again will you get wet

nor will you catch cold

because never again

will it rain

or storm

for you.


How familiar must that be.

That unreal feeling you still get sometimes. That it can’t be true that someone you love with all your heart just isn’t there any more.

And yet, at the same time, you know: it is true.


Because the cruel reality is etched into our memories.

The images of the coffins arriving in Eindhoven.

The long procession of hearses down the motorway.

The plane’s shattered fuselage at Gilze-Rijen air base.

Tangible proof of a shameful deed that robbed 298 innocent people of their lives.

The lives of your loved ones, who will never return to you.

But you return to them – every day in your thoughts and every year as a group, here at this peaceful spot, to cry together, to recount memories and to exchange experiences.

Because coming together to remember those who died gives us strength.

Because it gives us comfort.

Because, by saying their names aloud, we keep the memories of those 298 unique individuals alive.

That is incredibly important and valuable.

And today we feel a bond with all those people outside the Netherlands who are also mourning their loved ones.

Because today, grief for the victims of MH17 is felt all over the world.

To all the families from and representatives of the grieving nations, let me say how much we appreciate you being here.

Today we are united in our grief and in our determination to ensure justice for the victims.

Justice for the dead – that remains our common goal.

Our hearts cry out for a swift resolution, while our heads tell us to proceed carefully.

Because the road to justice requires determination and unity.

It requires self-control and restraint.

And it requires trust that flagrant lies and deliberate disinformation campaigns will never triumph over incontrovertible facts.

Today I’d like to express my deep respect and gratitude for the courage and patience you have shown throughout this journey.

Fortunately, last month we were able to take a new and important step forward.

We’re not there yet, but step by step we’re getting closer to the truth.

And I promise you: we will continue on this road with determination. With everything we’ve got.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Carrying on after the unreal has become real is painful and difficult.

Yet for the last five years you have done just that, each at your own pace, and in your own way.

Today, five years on, we are gathered together at this monument symbolising 298 people who will always remain with us.

Because their lives are rooted in the love that you feel for them.

In the memories that remain.

I hope with all my heart that this thought will sustain you in the future, and I wish you strength – today, tomorrow and all the days to come.

Thank you.

Read this speech in Dutch.