Editorial: No happy ending
And so, all hope is lost.
Yesterday, the families of the 239 people on board Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 were told the plane had gone down in the ocean, and it had to be assumed all lives were lost.
The announcement came more than a fortnight after the Boeing 777-200 vanished just 90 minutes after it took off from Kuala Lumpur, and after days of theories, false leads, and false hopes. The world has watched, read, discussed and debated what might have happened.
Theories have taken the place of facts. Confusion reigned over clarity. Investigations focused on the pilots, on two passengers flying with stolen passports, on all the passengers. Was there an explosion, a fire? Was it a suicide mission, or a hijacking?
Hope, however faint, was kept alive. People hoped, and prayed, for a miracle. For the news that the plane had been found. For news of their loved ones' fate. Hoping that, perhaps, the story might end without that particularly powerful phrase, peculiar to disasters such as this - all souls lost.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's announcement caused harrowing scenes at Beijing's Lido Hotel; family members screaming, crying, having to be taken away on stretchers.
There was condemnation of the abrupt nature of the announcement, and of the fact that some families were notified not even by a personal phone call, but by text.
And while there may no longer be hope, there is very little closure for the families.
Without any tangible evidence the discovery of the wrecked plane would provide, the language of yesterday's announcement is cautious and precise.
The official statement speaks of "assuming beyond any reasonable doubt" that the plane has been lost, and that none of those on board survived.
It says we must now "accept all evidence" the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean, west of Perth, far from any possible landing sites.
There have been sightings of debris, each time raising the possibility of finding a piece of the puzzle that MH370's final flight has become. Some closure might come if one of those pieces of debris is positively identified as being from the plane.
But it seems that the biggest question of all may well remain unanswered - just what did happen on flight 370?
There may be some relief in yesterday's news for the families of those on board. But there is very little closure. Too much remains unknown.
The Timaru Herald