It was such a gloomy day for Germany on Wednesday when the bodies of the Germanwings plane crash victims finally arrived home. The first repatriated were the bodies of 15 high school children.
A funeral procession accompanied by a police motorcade made its way from Düsseldorf airport to Haltern town, located some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north.
The convoy of hearses, including 14 white vehicles carrying the teenagers and two black cars with their teachers, drove past Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium, the school the teens attended.
People lined on the streets, crying and praying. Church bells rang out. Many tossed white roses.
BBC reports school authorities recently led a tree-planting activity in the school grounds where 18 trees were planted in honor of each victim. “This was the most unimaginable homecoming … the children watched in silent grief and disbelief” as the convoy crept around the school.
“This entire event is a tragedy, especially for the parents, but we, too, lost our students and colleagues,” Ulrich Wessel, the headteacher, said. “It’s especially difficult for the students of grade 10. There used to be 150 students, now they are only 134 … Many lost their best friends.”
Only one teenager from the group will not be buried in Haltern, The Guardian reports. The first burials are set to take place on Friday. Wessel said students would be allowed to attend the funerals of their schoolmates.
“From Friday, the burials will take place over the course of two weeks and this will be a further horrible moment, having to say goodbye to the children. So today was brutal but, at the same time, important.”
It took 11 weeks since the disaster before the bodies were repatriated to Germany because of clerical errors on the official death certificates which made them invalid.