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Cor ten Hove

The crisis after the disaster
Aircrash Aftermath: a true story
Cor ten Hove

Disasters appear daily in the media. The extent of destruction, the number of victims, and the geographical proximity to the TV-watcher or newspaper reader seem to determine which disasters make it to the news and which do not. We can ask ourselves what interest is served by reporting disasters. Perhaps the point is to show the viewers or readers that, on that particular day, they once again were not among those struck by a disaster somewhere in the world? A sense of comfort? We are aware that our continued existence can suddenly cease because of some misfortune. December 21 1992 a big disaster struck the town of Faro in Portugal. A Dutch Airplane crashed at the airport leaving many passengers dead or wounded. This book is the story of one of the survivors of this disaster and illustrates the pain he and his wife still, 12 years later, suffer from this tragedic accident.

Every day traffic incidents result in dead and injured. Homes burn down. The leading cause of death for children is accidents in their home environment. Nevertheless, we do not live with the thought that this will happen to us. We are aware of the possibilities, but hope that perhaps our guardian angel continues to be favorably disposed toward us. It is unthinkable to bid emotional farewells every morning out of a sense that perhaps we might not return in the evening due to some misfortune. Thus, for daily existence, a certain confidence in our safety is an important necessity. The reports also make us feel empathy with disaster survivors and surviving relatives of disaster casualties. We are horrified and we hope that they will be well cared for. This book concerns a couple who – just like others – viewed disasters in this way. They are kind people, who care about others and are prepared to make their contributions to society.

The Netherlands (where the couple lives) is a relatively safe country. Most of us manage to drive behind each other every day in such a way that we safely return home. Rarely does a train derail or an airplane crash. This reality gives a safe feeling. Thus, in the Netherlands where we live with so many in such a small area, we have things reasonably under control. This even gives us a certain amount of pride.

In October 1992, an airplane leaving Schiphol airport in the Netherlands crashed in the Bijlmer district, the first time that a take-off from Schiphol ended in disaster. An unknown henomenon that did not seem to belong in our pattern of safety. And at the end of December this was repeated. A Martinair DC-10 crashed on the runway in Faro. The Ten Hoves were aboard this aircraft on their way to a well-earned vacation. The unthinkable had happened. This large craft with sophisticated technology and experienced pilots turned out not to offer 100% certainty. Suddenly the aircraft was no more than a scrapheap in the rain from which desperate people tried to save themselves. Many perished. Others survived this terrible event. The account in this book describes a period of ten years.

The author is surprised and indignant about the lack of knowledge of long-term effects among the many highly educated specialists that crossed his path. If there is one thing that becomes clear from this book it is the necessity of truly coordinating assistance provision following a disaster. That is a tall order in our highly fragmented society, with the wide diversity of expertise that is necessary for that assistance provision. The first step to achieving this is to develop greater social awareness of the effects of disasters, so that the range of inter-related effects are not treated as unrelated problems.