Ethiopian Airlines plane crash:Moving service for victims at Nairobi church
Milka Yimam sauntered to the lectern at Ethiopia Orthodox Church in Nairobi. Dressed in black clothes and her voice trembling, she took the microphone struggling to talk as tears streamed down her face.
She was speaking in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia but her raw, intense emotion somehow broke the language barrier and made every word coming from her crystal clear.
Milka lost her son, 27-year-old Sidrak Getacha, in the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crash on March 10 that claimed killed 157 people.
Her grief was palpable as her every word pierced through the hearts of hundreds, including dignitaries key among them ambassadors drawn from the affected countries, who had gathered at the church to remember the plane crash victims.
The bell rang to mark the end of the memorial service but to the bereaved, the sound of the bell marked the end of a chapter for those they loved and the beginning of life without them for their relatives.
A long prayer followed afterwards as everyone joined in. Lit candles flickered from end to end, flowers placed at strategic points as a loud silence and sombre mood engulfed the precincts of the church.
People hugged each other in solace against the finality of death as one by one they exited the church whose mass ended with a message that “the exchange of the lit candles is a symbolism that the candles of the departed ones will burn throughout inextinguishable.”
Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau in his speech summed up the unity as he delivered President Uhuru Kenyatta’s condolences to the departed souls.
“The President would have liked to be here but he got another engagement at the same time as this and so he could not make it,” said Mr Kamau on Sunday.
Mr Macharia said that Ethiopia and Kenya share deep bonds as exemplified by the number of Kenyans who lost their lives in the crash in which Kenya lost 36 people.
“We do not differentiate ourselves in what we do and the choices we make because we know we are one,” he said.
He said both governments are working closely to assist the families of the crash victims.
Russian Ambassador to Kenya Dmitry Maksimychev also attended the memorial as his country lost three people.
Eritrean Ambassador to Kenya Beyene Russom described the crash as one of the most traumatising death one could ever die in.
“People die in different ways but this was a very tragic one. Those six minutes must have been very traumatizing to the departed ones,” said Mr Russom.
And the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya, Mr Meles Alem, said: “A tragedy has hit close to home and we have been left in utter grief. On behalf of the Ethiopian government and myself, let me express condolences to those who have lost their loved ones,” he said.
He said the tragedy has left the bereaved families only with photos to represent the reality and faces of the victims.
Mr John Getachew, whose nephew, Yared Getachew was piloting the ill-fated plane, described the deceased as a dedicated person who loved his job
A bell chimed in slow rhythm to mark the end of the service.
Then followed a long closing prayer. The preacher ended the service saying: “The exchange of the lit candles is a symbol that the candles of the departed ones will burn throughout, inextinguishable.”
People hugged each other in a defiant show of unity against death, then slowly made their way out of the church.