The relatives of the victims wait

On Monday May 21 I went to the Hotel Tulipán in Havana to visit the parents of a friend, almost a brother, who died in the May 18 plane crash.
For whom are you coming? I was asked at the entrance by a woman. There are 67 Holguín residents among the 111 victims. There’s a representation of 67 families in this hotel.
In the midst of the confusion I saw my friend’s father; I thanked the lady who received me, and I entered. I spoke with the family, gave them my support more with my presence than with a phrase because there’s nothing to say.

Hotel Tulipán, where the relatives and close friends of the victims are staying. Photo: EFE.
Hotel Tulipán, where the relatives and close friends of the victims are staying. Photo: EFE.

My visit coincided with the moment in which the Institute of Forensic Medicine was going to report on the identified bodies. They all entered the room, I preferred to stay outside, by the door.
They started coming out some minutes later. Those who had identified a relative, those who had been summoned to identify objects, or those who still hadn’t received news…. They were all crying. Three more bodies had been identified, and a group of relatives was asked to go to the Institute of Forensic Medicine to start identifying objects found. “They are only objects,” some insisted to frighten away in others the fear of seeing the remains of their loved ones.
Several persons sat down beside me. Without asking they started sharing their stories.
An acquaintance of my family was there, he had lost a nephew with his wife, son and mother-in-law. Another couple told me that they had lost their only son in the accident. I listen and try to show my solidarity with them.

The mourning of the families. Photo: EFE.
The mourning of the families. Photo: EFE.

My friend’s mother doesn’t stop crying; she doesn’t have the strength to walk. Her desperation is no longer only over the death of her son, but also because he still hadn’t been identified. She is full of questions with no answers.
I saw the agony of so many gathered families. The hotel’s service personnel is supporting them, in addition to doctors, psychiatrists who are with them all the time, but there is no peace in the midst of their pain.
I left feeling distressed and sad, in a state that still has not been left behind and that I know will remain for some time. It’s not easy to take the image of so many downhearted faces out of my mind.


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