There was no distress call from the pilot, no cause for any of the 298 passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to worry on their journey from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. But 33,000 ft. over eastern Ukraine, the Boeing 777 was blown from the sky on July 17 by a surface-to-air missile fired, U.S. officials say, by Russian-backed separatists. “An outrage of unspeakable proportions,” said President Obama. And one of heartbreakingly simple proportions too. In the grassy farmland where the plane went down, a sad scattering of the mundane – a children’s book, slippers, playing cards, a parking ticket – plus final photos shared on social media gave witness to the lives lost.
The Lone American
Quinn Lucas Schansman, 19
Schansman, who held dual U.S. and Dutch passports, boarded Malaysia Air Flight 17 with plans of joining his father, stepmother and siblings who were already vacationing on the beach in Bali. Instead, family members have returned to the Netherlands to await the arrival of the onetime minor league soccer player, who was born in New Jersey but had lived in Holland since age 5. “It’s a disaster,” his grandfather Ronald Schansman told PEOPLE. “The whole family is devastated.” A student at Amsterdam’s International School of Business, Schansman was remembered by friends for his laid-back, kind demeanor. “He stuck up for you and made you laugh when he saw something was wrong,” pal Fabienne Schriek told NBC News. “He was … kind of sensitive and caring.”
A Sad Twist of Fate
Sanjid Singh Sandhu, 41
Four months ago Sanjid’s wife, Tan, a cabin attendant for Malaysia Airlines, switched her work schedule at the last minute, managing to avoid being on board the carrier’s ill-fated Flight 370 that disappeared over the Indian Ocean on March 8. The move saved her life. Sadly, her husband – known to friends by his nickname Bobby – wasn’t so lucky. In an attempt to get back home to his wife and 10-year-old son Hans, Sanjid, who had spent the past 17 years working as a flight attendant for the airline, swapped assignments with a colleague shortly before Flight 17 took off. “If you have three sons, all right,” Sanjid’s sobbing father, Jijar Singh, told a Malaysian TV crew. “But he was my only son.” His widow, Tan, told a reporter that Sanjid had recently confided, “I don’t like flying,” and was considering returning to his former job at a luxury hotel where he had worked as a butler.
‘Beautiful Kids … Beautiful Family’
Mo Maslin, 12 | Otis Maslin, 8 | Evie Maslin, 10
With their European family vacation winding down, Nick Norris, 68, told his daughter Rin that he would escort the kids home to Perth, Australia, for the new school term while she and their dad, Anthony Maslin, had some couple time. Now the two are left with unthinkable grief for Norris and the bubbly trio of children family friend Bec Bucci remembered to PEOPLE as “beautiful kids from a beautiful family.” A devastated Rin and Anthony came home to an emotional balloon-release memorial on the soccer field where Mo was, said Bucci, so “gentle, fun-loving and passionate about his footy.” His aunt Natalia Gemmell called all three “just gentle, clever kids” and lamented to Perth’s channel 7, “Innocent children being shot out of the sky … in a war that isn’t theirs.”
A ‘Dutch Hoosier’
Karlijn Keijzer, 25
With a passion for science and sports, Keijzer moved to the U.S. in 2010 to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry and join the rowing team at Indiana University. She called herself a Dutch Hoosier and was known for her smile – and her cooking. “She would make us American pancakes,” says her former roommate Rachel Weigler. She was “madly in love” with her Dutch boyfriend, Laurens van der Graaff, 30. And over wine and cheese, Weigler says, she would talk “about life and how great it was to be young and in love. And just to be alive.” Keijzer and van der Graaff were on their way to Indonesia for a vacation when they died together on Flight 17. Says her friend: “They were inseparable.”
An Eerie Premonition
Cor ‘Pan’ Schilder, 33
With the soul of a poet, musician Schilder, 33, daydreamed of squiring his girlfriend, Neeltje Tol, 30, away from their Amsterdam flower shop to an exotic Indonesian resort where rose petals floated in pools. “We won’t leave before all those petals have withered away,” he wrote on Facebook in May. When that getaway finally dawned, Schilder posted cheeky notes on Facebook as the couple made their way through the airport to the gate for Flight 17—the same kind of Malaysian Airlines jet that vanished mid-flight in March. His last status update was a photo of Flight 17 through the window of the terminal and the foreboding words: “In case it goes missing, this is what it looks like.”
The Last Selfie
Gary Slok, 15, and his mom, Petra van Langeveld
Moments before taking off from the Amsterdam airport, Slok, a high school soccer player, and his mother excitedly looked into their camera and took the last-known selfie. On their way to Malaysia for what his soccer club spokesman called their “dream holiday,” Slok posted the picture on the Internet. Three hours later he and his mother were dead. Their picture remains a haunting reminder of the plans never realized and the hopes forever lost.