MH17 disaster anniversary brings families to Amsterdam

JACK O’Brien was just 25 years old, returning to his family in Sydney after a seven-week holiday, when he boarded MH17 for what would be his final journey.

His family – mother Meryn, father Jon and younger sister Bronwyn – arrived in Amsterdam yesterday to honour him, walking through the same airport he had walked through three years before.

Jon and Meryn O’Brien with daughter, Bronwyn, at the new MH17 memorial in the Netherlands. Jon and Merryn’s 25-year-old son Jack was killed on MH17. Franck Bessiere.

There were notes, and trinkets from those who loved him, including his two grandmothers.

“We just like we are here on behalf of all Jack’s family and friends,” Mrs O’Brien said.

“So we said if they wanted to send something with us … there were no rules other than it needed to be little so we could bring it.”

Mrs O’Brien shed quiet tears as she looked at a photograph of her son pinned to his tree, his smiling face looking out over the memorial park.

“It’s very raw,” she said.

“Some other Australian families came over at various times early on, especially when the bodies were identified. We didn’t do that, so this is a big trip for us, to come back to the airport that Jack left from.”

A memorial tree for 25-year-old Jack O’Brien. Franck Bessiere

Mr O’Brien said it had been very hard to walk through Schiphol Airport, as their son had.

“Just to imagine that we were walking through the airport and to think, a bit more than three years ago, Jack was walking through the same airport but in completely different circumstances,” he said.

“(Jack was) full of hope and expectations of a holiday and then, his whole life ahead of him, at the cusp of all that. For that just to be snatched away, is still really hard to come to terms with.”

Mrs O’Brien said the couple still found it hard to believe their son was gone.

Meryn O’Brien polishes a memorial plaque for her son, Jack. Franck Bessiere

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