In a bedroom in a townhouse near Amsterdam, Miguel Panduwinata reached out for his mother. “Mama, may I hug you?”
Samira Calehr wrapped her arms around her 11-year-old son, who’d been oddly agitated for days, peppering her with questions about death, about his soul, about God. The next morning, she would drop Miguel and his big brother Shaka at the airport so they could catch Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the first leg of their journey to Bali to visit their grandmother.
Her normally cheerful, well-traveled boy should have been excited. His silver suitcase sat in the living room, ready to go. Jetskiing and surfing in paradise awaited. But something was off. A day earlier, while playing soccer, Miguel had burst out: “How would you choose to die? What would happen to my body if I was buried? Would I not feel anything because our souls go back to God?”
And now, the night before his big trip, Miguel refused to release his mother from his grasp.
He’s just going to miss me, Calehr told herself. So she stretched out beside him and held him all night.
It was 11 p.m. on Wednesday, July 16. Miguel, Shaka and the 296 other people aboard Flight 17 had around 15 hours left to live.
The next morning, Samira Calehr and her friend Aan ushered her sons onto the train to the airport. They were joking and laughing. Shaka, 19, had just finished his first year of college, where he was studying textile engineering, and promised to keep an eye on Miguel. Their other brother, Mika, 16, hadn’t been able to get a seat on Flight 17 and would travel to Bali the next day.
At the check-in counter, Calehr fussed over her boys’ luggage. Shaka, meanwhile, realized he’d forgotten to pack socks. Calehr promised to buy him some and send them along with Mika.
Finally, they were outside customs. The boys hugged Calehr goodbye and walked toward passport control.
Suddenly, Miguel whirled around and ran back, throwing his arms around his mother.
“Mama, I’m going to miss you,” he said. “What will happen if the airplane crashes?”