Seaweed Sky. Photo: Bodie Strain Creative Commons.

This is a remote location.

Far from any possible landing sites.

The Prime Minister said that the flight had ended in the southern Indian Ocean. His words were hard to hear. He did not say, “It’s over”, but it was clear what he meant: now, we must stop hoping.

The search, which had taken 17 days up to last night, had also sustained 17 days of hope. People who didn’t believe in prayer or miracles started to pray for a miracle. The spectre of the missing plane haunted our thoughts. But as long as it was missing, it might also be found.

Shortly after Prime Minister Najib Razak’s press conference last night, my Twitter timeline filled with condolence and sadness. Cautious optimism had given way to grief. Some commented that the announcement, while heartbreaking, offered a kind of closure.

But closure is never so easy. Not for the people whose loved ones are on board. As long as there is no wreckage and there are no bodies, they will be left wondering what happened. As long as they have space to hope, they will hope against the tiniest shred of hope to see their loved ones again.

Speculation is so easy in a mamak. Conspiracy theories abound. In these last two weeks, ordinary people have seized on minute details as if they were veteran detectives. But for the families and friends who are looking for answers, this is not a riddle. It’s a matter of life and death.

In the early hours of the morning, the families of some Chinese passengers issued a statement, condemning the Malaysian government and crying out against delays and deception. This morning, some protested at the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing, with a vow to find “the truth”.

It’s likely that they never will know the truth – at least, not the whole truth. Perhaps no one will ever know. But when the world at large moves on, and social media returns to its memes, still they will wonder. Whether they choose to protest or grieve privately, it will be hard to find peace.

In the relentless world of digital news, updates are precious. Breaking a story means moving at a fast pace. After all, people want to know what’s going on. More updates. More tweets. More headlines. In our obsession with news, sometimes we forget that love moves much more slowly.

Love cannot be compressed into soundbytes or the length of a tweet. Long after the journalists have left the room, it’s still there: an unspeakable loss, as deep and unknowable as the ocean.


Ling Low is Editor in Chief of Poskod.MY.