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Table 1 Participants’ perspectives on the disaster the first weeks after the incident

From: The experience of sudden loss of a colleague or neighbor following the MH17 plane crash in the Ukraine: a qualitative interview study

Respondent IDRoleGenderCitation
C1ColleagueFemale“You think that is simply not possible. It is not a car accident that you often hear about, so that’s where denial comes from.”
C2ColleagueMale“[I think about my colleague] every single day. It can hardly be otherwise … I still work in the same building. His enthusiasm and drive can still be felt here.”
C3ColleagueFemale“[I felt] as if I had swallowed a piece of stone, really. I cried a lot. […] I’ve been thinking all the time about how strange life is and what gets lost and how that affects our understanding of the world.”
C4ColleagueFemale“The first few weeks, I think when I was at work, I received a certain kind of attention, because I had known [the victim] for so long. I was just very sad, although I don’t feel that this is the right word, it was actually more than that. I could function though. I slept very badly, I had nightmares all the time.”
C5ColleagueMale“I am not really an emotional person, but if you lose someone you have a good relationship with, then you just get hit, it is as simple as that.”
C6ColleagueFemale“(I felt) dazed. I was like: this is not possible, because she would have normally travelled a week later [...] You are defeated, you just can’t get over it. You are still hoping that she was not on board and you are looking at your phone [...] it was unreal and it still is actually.”
C7ColleagueMale“It was crazy, unbelievable and sometimes hard to realize, because nothing preceded the incident, it all happened suddenly at once, so you don’t actually believe it. […] … you are trying to imagine what happened. [You wonder:] Did they notice anything?...”
C8ColleagueFemale“[I] certainly [felt] disbelief in the beginning. That evening and night I was also thinking: she wasn’t on board. You don’t want to know that at all, so you push these thoughts away. Then the next day messages were coming from everywhere [...] What you feel then is sadness and also anger (because of) the way (they died), because I thought that was also a big deal [….]. This was not supposed to happen.”
C9ColleagueMale“… we think of the family, friends and colleagues” [...] I believe this has an enormous significance. I think that if you mention something like that during a commemorative speech, when everyone desperately seeks for sympathy and grip, that’s really something therapeutic.”
C10ColleagueMale“It’s a weird feeling that you cannot define. [During that moment] so many things happen. You don’t know yet what, how. Little by little you get some information, something to hear. You are not family but you are very closely involved … [...] My wife sometimes says: “It is anger that I hear in your voice”, because you had built something together. [...] It feels like family, that special bond you have.”
C11ColleagueMale“(The first few weeks at work) there was less room for emotions and more energy for work. [...] I noticed that at the moment you are talking about emotions, these become suppressed and (the need to) work comes forth; but when, for example, we were at his house [...], then the emotions hit us twice as hard. I did notice that.”
N1NeighborMale“I actually had to study, but I just couldn’t.” [...] it is about someone you know that was there, it could have been my parents or a friend of mine or something. [...] When I first heard it, I got really angry (at the perpetrators), but once the funeral was over, the anger was not there anymore.”
N2NeighborMale“We were very sad the first few days, I also couldn’t sleep well, but it’s not that I could not function anymore[...] How should I express that? It’s the fact that they were the next-door neighbors, that hits the hardest. If it was someone who lived farther away or in another village, it wouldn’t be the same.”
N3NeighborFemale“It was just murder actually. That has a different impact compared to being in a car accident. This makes you angry. [...] [if it was just an accident] it might have been easier to make peace with it.”
N4NeighborFemale“I still find bizarre that when I first saw it on television, I reacted immediately like: this feels really wrong. [...] ....even though I didn’t really know which day she was flying and in the beginning I did not realize that at all. I really had to force my husband to go have a look [...]. I think a lot about [the victim], actually more than when she was alive.”
N5NeighborFemale“No matter how crazy it may sound, a car accident is part of ​​your daily life. You don’t want it, but somehow it is part of it. This [the disaster] was so out of place. This is absolutely not how I perceived safety and security.”
N6NeighborMale“I was looking for information and when it was on the news, I was sitting in front of the TV and I also followed the national commemoration and every day when it was in the news I was following it. [...] I wanted to know everything that happened, but it’s not that it controlled my life.”
N7NeighborFemale“[It was stressful] that they kept coming … the journalists … and that is something I want to impart: please, when something like this happens, journalists should be banned from coming here …