A Town in Mourning

  • Share
  • Read Later
Germany is in mourning. Flags are flying at half-mast. "Germany is shaken, Germany is stunned," said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at an ecumenical service held at the World Expo in Hanover. "Our respect goes to the dead, our sympathy to the relatives." The bishop of Hildesheim, Josef Homeyer, who co-conducted the service, said, "Our hearts are heavy. The shock of the sudden might of death oppresses us. We lack words of consolation."

The residents of Mönchengladbach, some 24 kilometers west of Dusseldorf and home to 13 of the Concorde victims, are in shock. The six couples and one child who died in the crash were all part of a group of 20 friends who regularly went on holiday together. They had booked the $11,000 luxury trip at the local travel agency Clemens. "It's incomprehensible," says Albert Kuenzel, one of the agency's employees. "We are deeply moved. Many [of these people] were regular customers, most of them of retirement age." His colleague Christian Stattrop adds in a tired voice: "The Concorde was supposed to be a special tidbit for the travelers. When we heard about the crash we were horrified and helpless." The seven surviving members of the Mönchengladbach group had been the "unlucky" ones when the party drew lots to decide who would have the privilege of claiming the 13 remaining seats on the Concorde.