Apparent photo from MH17 passenger on Facebook, minutes before flight: “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like”


A screenshot from Cor Pan’s Facebook page.

Cor Pan and Neeltje Tol were leaving Amsterdam for vacation when C0r — who goes by the last name “Pan” on Facebook, but lists his surname as “Schilder” elsewhere — stopped to snap a picture of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and post it to Facebook. His message, in hindsight, was eerie: “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like.”

And the messages of his friends and family, as they began to realize what had happened, were even worse.

“Happy holidays,” they began. “We expect nice pictures!”

Then, at 11:19 a.m. EST — minutes after MH17 disappeared from radar — one of Cor’s friends posted a screenshot about the crash from the Dutch news website nu.nl. The comments immediately broke into debate about what time Pan’s plane had left and where it departed from.

Cor and Neeltje weren’t on that flight, they argued at first.

Then: People sometimes survive these things.

Then: Rust zacht. Rest in peace.

Names of the passengers on the plane, which crashed in Eastern Ukraine on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur today, have not yet been released. The Post contacted multiple friends of the couple, without response.

But on Facebook, at least — where the couple’s friends have changed their banners to black fields and posted messages of horrible grief — it would appear that the two were indeed passengers on the plane. Last week, Cor uploaded a series of pictures from resorts on Indonesia’s Gili Islands, east of Bali — presumably, places he was looking forward to visiting. Kuala Lumpur, the destination of flight MH17, is a logical transfer point for visitors traveling to the islands.

Cor and Neeltje both lived in Volendam, in the northern part of the Netherlands, according to their Facebook profiles. Cor played drums and sang in a band called Vast Countenance; Neeltje appeared to own a flower shop, called Neeltje’s Flowers, at a local mall. Earlier this week the shop announced it would be closed from July 16 until August 3.

“Goosebumps,” friends and acquaintances wrote on Cor’s profile, again and again.

But it’s hard to say, really, what’s more chilling: The apparent premonition of Cor’s last post, or the very public, archived nature of his loved ones’ grief. We understand, of course, that every mass tragedy implies thousands of instances of quiet, deeply personal pain. But to see that realization dawning out in the open — in a Facebook comments thread, no less — is to sneak an illicit glimpse at a grief we have no real right to. It’s intimate, and it’s heart-breaking. Goosebumps, indeed.

READ MORE: Malaysia Airlines plane live blog

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (tinyletter.com/cdewey)

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Caitlin Dewey · July 17, 2014