Addis Ababa — A memorial service was held Wednesday in Addis Ababa in honour of 33 United Nations and non-governmental organizations personnel who lost their lives in last month's Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people aboard.
Families, airline staff, government representatives, diplomats and others joined UN and non-governmental organizations personnel as they mourned the loss of their colleagues and also celebrated their selfless work serving Africa and the world.
Bouquets of white, yellow and red roses littered the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) conference centre where the memorial was held exactly a month to the day of the ET302 tragic crash.
Prayers were offered by religious leaders from the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia at the beginning of the service with a minute of silence also observed.
Slender single stems of white and yellow roses were placed by their pictures by friends and family members in attendance.
The most touching moment of the service that saw almost everyone in the memorial service crying was the testimony given by Annabella Tayob, the wife of Mozambican Marcelino Tayob who died in the crash.
"It was dancing that brought us together. Marcelino you were a wonderful dancer and I had a wonderful time to dance with you for 35 years," the widow of the late senior International Telecommunication Union adviser said.
"Now my dance of sorrow goes to all the other people who lost their loved ones in the plane crash and never had the chance to say goodbye."
ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, said the 33 (21 UN and 12 NGO) came from 11 UN agencies, 12 NGOs and represented 17 countries.
"They all had one thing in common - a spirit to serve the people of Africa and the world and to make a difference in the lives of the people that we serve. It is truly tragic that anyone should perish doing such good and essential work," she said.
"Today we come together to honour their memory and pay tribute to their service, courage and sacrifices. As we mourn our lost colleagues, let us keep their spirit of service alive and let us join together in solidarity as one United Nations, committed to serve Africa better and the greater good of humanity."
Ethiopia's Foreign Affairs Minister Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Mahlet Hailu, offered her government's "deepest condolences and comfort" to families, friends and colleagues of the deceased.
"The tragic accident is one of the darkest moments of our aviation industry," she said, adding Ethiopia was grateful for all the support and sympathies that have come from far and wide following the crash.
Ethiopian Airlines Vice President responsible for Customer Service, Michael Yared, said results of the ongoing investigation into the crash should be out in the next six months, adding insurance payments were currently being made.
"I offer my heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of the deceased," he said.
The African Union Commission's Deputy Chairperson, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey; a representative of the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the United Nations Staff Union also spoke at the service.
In closing, United Nations Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia, Aeneas Chuma, comforted the families and colleagues saying the UN shared "your pain, agony, shock and bewilderment at what happened exactly a month ago".
Quoting UN Secretary General António Guterres, who said the crash victims were a mirror of the United Nations, Mr. Chuma said; "They really represented what the United Nations is, and were the best of the United Nations."
It was a privilege, he said, to have known and worked with them, adding they will never be forgotten.