A message to those who shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17


Our names are Jon and Meryn O’Brien.  We live in Sydney, Australia.

On July 17 last year, in Ukrainian airspace, our only son Jack was killed when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17 was shot down. He was 25.

We make this statement on behalf of our son who would be outraged that his life was snatched away, and because it is one thing we can do in response to the evil that has occurred. We do not speak for the families of all the others on board. We don’t know them personally, though we are now bound together by this wilful act of violence.

The passengers and crew on MH 17 were ordinary people going about their lives. Many of the more than 6000 people killed in this undeclared war were civilians, also just going about their normal lives. With their families we share bewilderment and grief at the futile loss of people we love.

It is this grief we want you, the people who shot down Flight MH17, to know about. We want you, and the people who gave you orders and armed you, to be aware of the pain you have inflicted.

In May last year the opportunity came up for Jack to travel. He had saved money from his work in the fitness industry and was able to go. He travelled from Amsterdam around Iceland, and then on to Russia, England and Spain and finally back to Amsterdam. He was on his way home to us after seven weeks away. It had already seemed a long time.

We woke that morning to the news that a Malaysian Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur had been shot down over Ukraine. We cried out in disbelief. That was Jack’s flight. Then came the phone calls and agonising wait while our government officials confirmed what we feared. We heard the news that every parent dreads. Your child is dead.

Jack had so much of life ahead of him. He loved football and had been following the World Cup while he was away. He played with friends in a local team and had done so since he was a boy.

He had finished a degree in business. He had triumphed over health problems that plagued him for more than a year and was studying to become a personal trainer. We had been so relieved at his recovery and proud of our son’s determination and discipline. He also encouraged others to reach their goals. He was embracing life and eager for what was next.

Our joy has turned to sorrow and disbelief.  Our world seems drained of meaning and hope.

Now, more than a year later, we do our best to get up and live each day, but inside we are broken. We miss Jack so deeply. The unique person he was, is gone. We can only remember him. We will never again see him and know him as he is.

It is heart breaking to think of all the things he might have done that we will not witness.

He will never win a championship with his football team. He won’t ever become a personal trainer. He will never marry or have children of his own. When our beloved daughter, Jack’s sister, marries, he will not be there. She now feels alone, without the promise of that life long relationship and blood connection that only a brother or sister can provide.

For us, grief comes in enveloping waves. At other times there is just emptiness. The yearning for Jack – to hear his car pull up outside, to see him walk through our door- is almost unbearable.

And so we ask ourselves – what happened that afternoon?

Did you intend to shoot down a passenger plane?

If not, why did the missile enter international airspace?  Did one of you make a mistake or was there a problem with the weapons system?

Were you following orders, or had you taken matters into your own hands?

Whatever your reasons for fighting or your belief in the rightness of your cause, how can you justify killing innocent civilians?

How did each one of you feel when you realised you had shot down a passenger plane and saw the bodies of the people you had killed, including 80 children?

We said that Jack would be outraged that his and other lives were taken. We too are deeply angry. Despite this, any revenge, even if we could accomplish it, would be futile. It would just add to the violence and callous indifference that has cost Jack and so many others their lives.

But we do seek justice. We want you, the crew who fired the missile, to be held accountable and dealt with accordingly.

We want your military leaders, who are responsible for your conduct, to be answerable for what happened.

But most of all we want the political leaders who, from a distance, armed you and moved you as pawns on a chessboard, to be called to account for this crime against humanity.

All those aboard Flight MH 17 deserve at least that.