Miguel and Shaka made their way to their seats in the first row of economy. Grootscholten was in the same row, two seats to their left. He'd just changed his Facebook cover photo to an image of Schiphol's air traffic control tower.
Farther back, Ayley settled into his seat. Against all odds, he'd made it. The anxious flier had shot one final message to his friend Patterson: "Gidday mate, leaving Amsterdam now. Great trip, not looking forward to the plane."
Up front, Albert and Maree Rizk slid into the first row of business class. Budy Gunawan sat down next to Maree. His wife Irene and their children settled in a few rows behind them. They'd been among the last to check in.
Irene, still worried about how her family was coping with the typhoon, sent one last text to her sister-in-law: "Hehehe Lov u, turning off cellphone, time to take off...take care always, you may get hit by falling trees."
She was on her way to Heaven.
Flight 17 took off around 12:15 p.m. on what should have been an 11 hour and 45 minute flight.
It lasted two hours.
The bodies began to fall. The phones began to ring. The confusion erupted, the hearts broke. And the twists of fate or happenstance that brought these people to this plane on this day unfurled.
In New Zealand, Ayley's frantic family began sending him messages, hoping his email about missing the bus meant he'd also missed the flight.
"Your booked plane has been blown up, literally," his mother Wendie wrote. "So wherever you are, whatever mess you're finding yourself in, we'd be delighted to hear that you missed your flight. ... We love you heaps and heaps and we just want to know you're alive my darling."
In Australia, the Campbells had just arrived when they heard that a Malaysia Airlines plane had been shot down over Ukraine. Fearing the worst, they rushed over to the Rizks' house to check on their kids. And for the second time in five months, Maree's stepmother learned she'd lost a loved one to a Malaysia Airlines disaster.
In Bali, Christine prayed. "Hope you will be fine... ohhhhhhhhhh GODDDDDDDDDDDD... PLEASEEEEEEEEEE!!! I beg You..." she posted on Facebook.
And in Amsterdam, Calehr had just finished buying Shaka's socks when her phone rang. It was her friend Aan. "Where are you?" he screamed. "The plane crashed!"
She made it home just in time to faint.
They grapple now with the what-ifs, the astronomical odds, the realization that the world they knew has turned alien in a blink.
In the Philippines, the Gunawan family home has grown quiet. Irene is gone, and with her, the community's joy.
Friends stop by to offer condolences and pray. Irene smiles out of an old picture on an altar ringed by candles. A videoke machine and microphone she bought on her last visit lie idle in the corner.
Her best friend, Zenaida Ecal, is furious. What does she want as punishment for those who stole Irene?
"What is worse than death?" she replies.
In Malaysia, the food Singh's mother had so lovingly prepared remains in the fridge. She cannot bear to look at it.
The parents cannot comprehend how something as simple as a swapped shift could have proven so kind to their daughter-in-law and so cruel to their son.
"It saved her life," Jihar Singh says. "Now my son has saved someone else's life."
In New Zealand, Wendie Ayley's work as a hospice nurse has given her a different perspective. She knows the end must come for everyone, including her son, who missed the bus but not the flight.
"When he died he was 30,000 feet closer to God. He would have known he was dead, and opened his wings," she says. "I believe his first thought would have been, 'This is awesome.'"
In the Netherlands, Samira Calehr thinks about how her baby boy seemed to sense that his time on earth was running short. She imagines the futures that will never be: Shaka's dream of becoming a textile engineer, gone. Miguel's dream of becoming a go-kart race driver, gone.
How could he have known? How could she have known?
"I should have listened to him," she says softly. "I should have listened to him."
Associated Press writers Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand; Jim Gomez in Pagbilao, Philippines; Firdia Lisnawati in Bali, Indonesia; Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia contributed to this report.
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