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A grief-stricken nation took to roadways and overpasses to pay their respects to some 40 victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as the procession traveled through the Netherlands today.
"We saw today what this country is made of," said Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal, a reporter for NOS Dutch Broadcasting Nieuwsuur and witness to the day's remarkable tribute.
It was the country's first declared national day of mourning since 1962. Of the 298 passengers on board, 193 were Dutch citizens.
"You notice that across the Netherlands today that people were quiet. People are not usually quiet in this country. This time they were and they were standing on bridges and overpasses just watching this," van Rosenthal remarked. "I was at the army base when the coffins arrived and people were silent first and then they started applauding when the coffins came in and you get goosebumps. It's not something you're used to and not something you want to get used to."
The bodies were transferred to a Dutch military base in the city of Hilversum, where they will undergo forensic testing for identification. More than 74 more coffins will be arriving to the Netherlands tomorrow, according to one Dutch official.
Many viewed the procession as a restoration of dignity after pro-Russian separatists impeded the transfer of the victims from Ukraine in the days following the atrocity. While the anger remains, van Rosenthal believes today was "very important," as the bodies are in "safe territory" and no longer able to be used as "bargaining chips."
"Yes, there is a lot of anger and this was a crime and people want to make sure that that crime is being resolved, and the Dutch will lead the investigation into this crime and fortunately, there is a lot of international support," van Rosenthal said, adding, "but today was really a day for grief, and I think tomorrow and over the next few days there's really a new phase starting."
For the Dutch people, the investigation phase should focus on the Netherlands' and Europe's relationship with Russia as everything as "completely changed."
"There is a lot of anger with Russia right now, since everybody is quite well aware that if the Russians did not push the button, they are obviously involved with these separatists. And the Netherlands was one country against stronger sanctions against Russia ‒ that will definitely change."