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Missing Jet Dredges Raw Memories, Sympathy Of Air France Families


The waiting, the searching, the wondering is all too familiar for our next guest. Bernd Gans lost his daughter, Inez(ph), in the flight that left Brazil in 2009. Since then, he's served as president of the Air France 447 Families Association. On behalf of the association, Gans sent an open letter to the families of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, offering sympathy and compassion.

He empathized with the anxiety they must be feeling, and he encouraged the families to pressure their governments for answers and to ask for financial aid. I asked Bernd Gans about his experience when the Air France flight disappeared.

BERND GANS: The information that something had happened first was received by my wife on the radio. And my wife came to me and she said, oh, something must have happened and - well, my feeling is our daughter Inez is on the plane. So we tried to reach Air France office here in Munich. They asked us, how old is your daughter? Where does she live? And so on and so on.

And finally, I said, it's a strange situation. We are in trouble, not you. They said OK, we can't tell you anything. First of all, we'll keep you informed.

CORNISH: Bernd Gans, from your perspective, what are the family and friends of passengers who were onboard Malaysian Airlines 370, what are they going through right now? What are some of the pressures?

GANS: This uncertainty, I think, is prevailing. Unless you know how your son, daughter has come to death, you are speculating - could be alive, could be injured but could also be death; which kind of death. And once it is confirmed that this aircraft has gone down, then it changes a little bit because then you think, can I bury my child? Can I bury my parents? And so on. This brings you to a new stage of mourning, yeah.

CORNISH: And in the case of Air France Flight 447, major wreckage was not found for two years.

GANS: Exactly. Finally, they made a contract with an American company, Woods Hole in Boston. And Woods Hole told us very professionally, we have found the Titanic. We can show you other cases were we discovered wreckage, and so on. After seven days, they had found the wreckage. All stories which had been told to us by the investigators - that it was impossible to work in that area because it's hilly - they turned out to be lies.

CORNISH: Were you able to bury your child's remains?

GANS: Yes. Remains were recovered. I don't know in which condition. I'm afraid it was a cruel - well, to answer your question clearly, I was able to bury her remains, which were cremated in Paris. And since that time, my wife and myself, we are going very often to the grave.

CORNISH: Bernd Gans, I want to offer my sympathy and condolences for your loss, and to ask what message you might have for the family and friends of passengers of the Malaysian flight.

GANS: I only pray for them, that they get certainty about the fate of their loved ones.

CORNISH: Bernd Gans, thank you so much for speaking with us. We appreciate you sharing your story.

GANS: Thank you, Audie.

CORNISH: Bernd Gans is president of the Air France 447 Families Association. His daughter, Inez, died on that flight back in 2009. She was 31 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.