My Sister Ymke

In July of this year, my younger sister Ymke, 23 years old, visited her life-long friend Silvia in Ecuador, where Silvia had been teaching for six months. They spent an adventurous month together, the highlight of which was a week of sailing around the Galapagos Islands.

She emailed me: “I think the week in Galapagos was one ofthe best weeks of my life!”
Before returning home to Switzerland, their plan was to visit us in Tamarindo, on the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica. They arrived in San José, Costa Rica on August 15, but both had contracted a severe bacterial infection in Ecuador, and spent 9 days in a San José clinic. Discharged on August 25, Ymke called me that evening. They were in a hotel, had walked around town, felt healthy and were excited to head our way the next morning. We were so happy to finally get to see and embrace them!

On Saturday, August 26 they boarded Sansa Airlines flight 1644 in San José. After a stop in La Fortuna, they took off again for the 20-minute leg to Tamarindo. But the pilot immediately veered off course towards the Arena] volcano – it had been active, with new mudflows, it seems the pilot wanted to do a little sightseeing…

The plane slammed into the mile-high volcano, near its summit. The 8 passengers and 2 pilots were all killed on impact.

I waited with my 2 children at the airstrip in Tamarindo for an hour and a half. We went home, returned again to the airstrip and were told by the crew of the next flight that the plane had crashed. Nooooo! Time stood still.

It is all still so raw: images of recovery efforts on TV, my sister arriving from Canada, my Dad, stepmother and brother from Switzerland together with Silvia’s parents, all of us in a daze, meeting the family members of other passengers, crying together, bonding in our grief, traveling to La Fortuna and seeing the wreckage when the volcano clears… Despair. Anger.

And now we are all back in our own homes, where sadness is normal now. Why did this happen? There will never be an answer. Somehow I can’t even believe this really happened. It is not supposed to happen! And with “why” comes “if only”. So many variables…

My father wrote me: It is as if I heard beautiful, wonderful music [Ymke]. I know I will never hear it again, but now it is an intangible part of me, and nobody can take it away from me. It will continue to be a joy to me. I long to hear this music again, but it is not to be. I will have to live with the memory..Ymke will live in our hearts forever.

Petra Schoep, Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, who lost her sister Ymke, 23, aboard Sansa Airlines Flight 1644 on August 26, 2000

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