his wife that his wedding ring should go to the first of his sons to get married, or that Chandrika Sharma, an Indian social activist on her way to a conference in Mongolia, called her elderly mother just before the plane took off?
It’s only in retrospect that what happened that Friday now seems anything more than prosaic, more than just another passing day.
“By the time we arrived at the (Kathmandu) airport, the sun had already risen, so we flew over the mountains as we embraced the rising sun,” said Wang Dongcheng, 65, a retired professor of Chinese literature who was on the Everest flight with the three women who would disappear with Flight 370. “They loved to be photographed, and they were dressed for photos,” Wang said. Wang declined to reveal the full names of the women, but The Associated Press confirmed their identities independently.
One, 62-year-old Ding Ying, had been a happy, talkative presence throughout the tour, always telling jokes. Another, Chen Yun, said one of her Everest photos might be the best she had ever taken. Yang Xiaoming spoke about how much she’d learned in Nepal, and how she was thinking of going on an upcoming tour to England, Ireland and Iceland.
In Medan, on the east coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, Sugianto Lo had dreamed for years of a vacation alone with his wife, Vinny Chynthya Tio. But the couple — he was an electrical contractor, she a mechanical engineer — had had little time for vacations. So when a friend gave them the gift of a trip to China, they were thrilled to accept. The couple, both 47, worried about their children, from whom they had never been separated, and called repeatedly from the airports in Medan and Kuala Lumpur. They worried their oldest, 17-year-old Antonio, might not come home before dark while they were gone, and they called and sent him text messages, reminding him of his responsibility to his younger brother and sister.
For the 19 artists and calligraphers, the visit to Kuala Lumpur was their first trip to Malaysia. While the exhibition had gone well, many had suffered badly with the city’s heat. So that Friday was in many ways a respite. They left early for the airport, since many had delicate artwork to pack, and they stopped at a Chinese restaurant not far away for a last meal in Malaysia. They chose a restaurant that served halal food to make things easier on the group’s lone Muslim, who had rarely been able to eat with the larger contingent. Liu, the elderly calligrapher, sang for the bus as they headed to the airport.
Xu Lipu, an artist, who had gone to the airport to drop off the travellers, said there were no heartfelt partings. “We and the other artists did not really say goodbye,” Xu said. “I went to the toilet and came back, and I didn’t see the artists again.”