At Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, they are trying to carry on business as usual despite the worst disaster in Air France’s 75 year history. But arrivals and departures are tinged with sympathy for the friends and relatives of those on board.
“It is terrible. We feel awful for the people who have lost friends and members of their family,” said one woman at the airport. Of the 32 nationalities represented on the passenger manifest, France was the worst hit, with 61 people on board. There were 58 Brazilians and 26 Germans. The rest of the list could have been mistaken for the agenda of a United Nations meeting. Every continent in the world, bar Australasia, had citizens on the flight. There was a sigh of relief when one particular arrival showed up on the board. It was the first Air France flight from Rio since the disaster. And one passenger on board brought with him a tale of a lucky escape. He tried to get onto the doomed flight, but it was already full. “We had two sets of conflicting emotions at the same time. On the one hand, the feeling of having escaped a catastrophe and to be alive, which is obviously very special.. and at the same time at Rio airport we saw the families crying, coming and going in a desperate state, the reporters and all that, and we thought deeply about those who disappeared,” he said. There were counsellors on hand at Charles de Gaulle when the news struck yesterday. Now, the French government has offered relatives the chance to visit the area where flight 447 came down, if they want to.