Why did we make these

These eight people lost close relatives or friends in the MH17 plane crash and each got a tattoo as a tribute to their deceased loved ones. RTL News brought them together.

Grief gets under your skin. It’s always there. You carry it within you, whether you want to or not. To parties, to work, to the supermarket. They all feel that way. Humberto Tan photographed their tattoos in a photo studio. This permanent, sub-epidermal tribute eternalizes memories of their loved ones killed in one of the deadliest plane crashes in Dutch history.

These bereaved had no reason to expect that they would forge a common bond. But that’s what happened, simply because their loved ones boarded the same flight in 2014. Completely random. “At first, it was all a blur,” says Yarick (23), who lost his father, sister and stepmother. “I was told I smoked a whole packet of cigarettes that night and kicked over the garden chairs, but I don’t remember anything.” Marit tells us that she ran out onto the street, when she learned that her friend Inge was on the flight. And that she screamed “like a madwoman.”

When the fog lifted, grief, loss, anger and helplessness followed. Some say that an open wound remains, even after five years. Like Madelief, who lost her grandfather and grandmother when she was 14. The first few years she could hardly talk about it. Anger inhibited her and possibly awkwardness as well. How can you impose so much grief on others?

The tattoo has helped Madelief. “People would ask me: ‘What’s that on your wrist?’ That was the conversation starter I needed.” It’s a heart. Madelief rubs it briefly during the interview. All of them do this, placing their hand on the tattoo for a few seconds.

Grief gets under your skin. Just as love does.

The tattoos feature initials, wings. Words. Faces. A “brother band” around a forearm. Knowing that the tattoos are permanent provides comfort. The tattoo will endure, as will the memory. Do not merely describe these bereaved as “grieving.” They are so much more. Pride drives the plane crash and the anger aside, they bear their grief with their heads held high.

Madelief: “The bad feeling is no longer overpowering. When I look at my tattoo, I think of granddad and grandma basking in the sun, at their summer cottage.”

Grief gets under your skin. Just as love does.

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Tekst: Lisanne van Sadelhoff | Fotografie: Humberto Tan en Richard Terborg | Video: Hidde Stoker en Jildou van Opzeeland | Design: Roy Vonk | Productie: Dennis van Luling | Locatie: Studio34X in Almere
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