Speech by Mr. Leo van Wijk
(President and CEO of KLM)
March 1977, Tenerife. A date and a place which are indelibly etched
on our memories. Today, thirty years later, we come together on
Many of you met five years ago on this day in 2002, when family and
friends of the victims, emergency response staff, employees and
former employees of Holland International, Pan Am and KLM came
together in Amsterdam to remember the terrible day on which two
Boeing 747s collided – one operated by PanAm, the other by KLM.
meeting, organized by the recently-formed Tenerife Victims Families
Foundation, was a remarkable gathering. It was an extremely
emotional day, but one which brought comfort to many. The chairman
of the foundation, Jan Groenewoud, believed that it should have a
sequel. The idea of placing a permanent memorial here on Tenerife
And so we
find ourselves here today, five years on and exactly thirty years
since the disaster itself. Here in Santa Cruz, our thoughts once
again turn to those we lost. There has never been a meeting of this
nature here on Tenerife itself, and never before have we had the
opportunity to remember our loved ones alongside the Spanish
emergency workers and local residents. Everyone on this island was
shocked and deeply affected by the events of 27 March 1977. It is
therefore fitting that they should now have the opportunity to stand
alongside others from all over the world, to share their experiences,
and to join us in remembering the victims.
gathering is partly the result of the Foundation’s desire to place a
permanent memorial on Tenerife itself. That desire has given you all
the courage and fortitude to come so close to the exact spot at
which your loved ones were taken from you. I have nothing but the
deepest respect for that.
like to compliment Jan Groenewoud, the other committee members of
the Tenerife Victims Families Foundation, and everyone else who has
made today’s event possible. In particular, we must thank the
Spanish authorities for having permitted us to meet here and for
having done so much to facilitate our visit.
afternoon sees the official unveiling of the International Tenerife
Memorial, and hence the culmination of much hard work over the past
few years. For many people, the events of 27 March 1977 serve as a
stark reminder of the fragility of the human existence, and of the
fact that life can sometimes meet an abrupt end.
The sculpture which is now to grace Mesa Mota is in the form of a
spiral staircase which itself comes to an abrupt end. However, it
also stands as a symbol of endlessness.
continuous spiral movement of the sculpture will remind us of the
tragedy, of the grief, and of the fragility of our existence. But I
hope that the memorial will also be a source of great comfort to you,
and that this staircase will take you a step nearer to closure.