By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
When a Germanwings airliner crashed in the French Alps March 24, 16 students and two teachers from Haltern, Germany, perished. This news was particularly troubling to Ann Elsbecker, a member of St. Thomas More Parish, Coralville, whose cousins live in the northwest German community of about 37,000.
“I was able to chat with (my cousin) Karin Thies on March 25 on Facebook. She said the whole town is devastated! School is not in session; the students have been bringing candles and praying and of course there are many tears,” Elsbecker said.
Catholic News Service reports Germanwings Flight 9525 began to lose altitude shortly after taking off from Barcelona, Spain, for Dusseldorf, Germany.
It crashed into the mountains, reportedly killing all 150 passengers and crew members. Audio from the recovered black box suggests that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz purposely started an eight-minute descent into the mountains after locking the pilot out of the flight deck.
Prosecutors say there is no evidence of a political or religious motive for his alleged actions and no suicide note has been found.
The travelers from Joseph-König-Gymnasium High School in Haltern were returning from an exchange program in Spain, according to German news magazine Focus.
Thies’ son Kristian is a senior at the Haltern school and her other son, Hedrick, is a recent graduate. Hedrick’s former Spanish teacher was one of the crash victims.
Karin and her husband, Martin, were friends with some of the fallen students’ parents.
Elsbecker said, “I never thought a world event would hit so close to home. …it makes you realize how small the world is.”
Kristian told his American relatives, “We are all shocked and paralyzed…it means so much to us to know we have a big family over there (in the USA) supporting us.” His mother said it was comforting to be able to talk about the tragedy with loved ones.
Elsbecker said, “I can’t even imagine (what they’re going through.) … I definitely will be there any time they need me!”