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A Brief on Memorials

By: Gail Rowntree MSc (OPP), BSc, FCIPD, FHEA, MEPS
Memorial Director, EgyptAir MS804 Memorial

Why do we have a memorial ceremony?

For many families, the year leading to the anniversary is both painful and confusing. The idea of a memorial ceremony may feel too soon or too painful. The evidence of undertaking a variety of ceremonies all over the world appears to show that, in fact, families who take part find it a comforting experience. Those who have shared the pain of the previous year can once again come together to remember and mourn their loved ones. In addition, having a permanent memorial site offers a restful and peaceful spot so that families and friends can visit whenever they want to; to remember and mourn in whatever way they wish.

What is a memorial?

Memorials can take many forms. Examples include a permanent stone, or wall. Sometimes it may be a quiet wooded area planted specifically to offer the local community a sanctuary of peace and quiet. It may even be a water feature, such a waterwheel. Usually families are part of the design process and can feel they are contributing to what will be a lasting reminder of the crash, or event, which led to the death of their loved one. Below are some examples of previous memorials to show what families and organizations created together.

MS804 – The Journey to the Memorial on the 19th May 2017

With the one-year anniversary of MS804 on 19th May 2017, Egyptair set about organizing a permanent memorial for all those who were lost. Families were contacted to keep them informed of progress and to share information. The final memorial was unveiled at an evening ceremony on the date of the anniversary and many families travelled to Cairo to take part. A photo of the finished memorial can be seen below.

The journey began with locating a suitable site to ensure a permanent memorial could be accommodated due to the size and scale of what was chosen. Next, the design of the memorial was completed. Local stone and local craftspeople worked closely with the designers and Egyptair to complete the design. This process took into account all of the families’ wishes and remarks from those who chose to take part. It also noted those families who chose not to take part in the ceremony or the memorial itself.

The ceremony that accompanies the unveiling of the finished memorial was created around the memorial site and again is designed to take in all cultures, religions and family wishes.

Do all families take part in a memorial ceremony?

The simple answer to this question is no. Not all families want to travel to a ceremony. Some do not want their loved ones to be memorialized in this way and some feel unable to return to the event. All reasons for not taking part are valid, and understood. However, many families do choose to be part of the memorializing of their loved ones and travel to be part of the proceedings.

The Legacy of a Memorial

Finally, a memorial acts as a permanent legacy, a legacy that remembers all those who have died. It also acts as a permanent place for families and friends to remember and mourn their loved ones whenever they wish, in whatever way they wish.

Gail is a Senior Associate Consultant and Team Member for Kenyon. Like many of our associates is a former full time employee. She also has field experience in a variety of international disasters including: the Tsunami in 2005 and Helios crash in Cyprus in 2006 as Senior Incident Director for Family Assistance, Libya in 2010, BP terrorist attack in Algeria in 2013, Germanwings in 2015, and Egyptair in 2017, as the Director of the one-year memorial ceremony. Gail led the Mental Health support team for the Thompson beach shootings in Sousse in 2015. Gail is published, writing several articles and book chapters on resilience on managers and training for mass disasters.