EINDHOVEN, Netherlands -- It was a national day of mourning in the Netherlands. Two-thirds of the passengers killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine were Dutch.
Six days of confusion and indignity ended at last. Two military transports, one Dutch and one Australian, brought the first 40 victims back to Netherlands.
One by one, the simple coffins were carried off the planes by Dutch soldiers and loaded into waiting hearses.
The procedure went on for 90 minutes under the broiling sun.
Flanking the airfield was the national flags at half staff of all those killed in the crash.
Dutch dignitaries looked on. As did a thousand family members. They were kept out of sight for their privacy. But their grief was audible from behind a black screen.
Today's austere ceremony included no speeches. The tragedy of MH17 lies beyond words.
A solemn motorcade was to carry the crash victims across central Holland, past crowds of Dutch people lining the roads to pay tribute, to a forensic center where the work of identification can finally begin.
Along the way, a nation used to private emotions, united in a public display.
People paused to listen to church bells marking the day of collective pain and homecoming no one could have imagined.
Another two planes will arrive in Eindhoven Thursday and this time they will be carrying seventy bodies or more.