28 Mar 2014

Resilience and optimism: waiting for news on MH370

It’s a truism to say that grief affects people in different ways. In the three weeks since MH370 disappeared, the relatives of those on board have been by turns distraught, angry, and calmly hopeful.

I interviewed Sarah Bajc just a moment ago, and was astonished at her resilience and optimism. An American teacher whose partner Philip Wood is one of the missing passengers, Bajc refuses to believe the worst until she has the evidence to prove it.

She’s firmly convinced there’s a chance the plane has been taken by hijackers and its passengers are currently being negotiated over.

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“Right now I’m wondering what the passengers on that flight are doing. Are they sitting in a detention centre someplace wondering if the world has forgotten about them because they realise that they’ve been kidnapped and perhaps nobody knows, or are they already in their final resting place?” she told me.

To some, her claims may smack of the nutty conspiracy theorist. But as the hunt for the missing jet approaches its fourth week, and the authorities embark on a whole new search area, you can hardly disagree with her analysis that those in charge have been at best clueless, at worst downright dishonest.

So Bajc is determined to discover the truth. It’s clear the almost frenetic activity she’s embarked on is in part a coping response. She’s set up a social media campaign which has reached 400,000 people. And she’s intent on keeping his spirit alive by sticking to the daily routines they shared together.

Inner fortitude

But what really struck me was her incredible poise. Who can blame the families whose anger and grief at the authorities has frequently boiled over, particularly as they’re required to come to terms with the most appalling tragedy in the public eye? Not for Bajc, though, such all-consuming grief.

I asked her how she managed to keep it together when she’s gone from hope to despair – at one point in the last three weeks asking for time to grieve, before once again summoning the strength to hope.

Her response, amazingly, was to start her answer with a joke. “It’s really good for losing a few pounds because it makes it difficult to eat – both finding time to do so and having an appetite.”

Few of us are tested in the way Bajc and the other relatives of those on board MH370 are now being tested. But I hope if I ever am, I can find the inner fortitude she has.

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