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Germanwings co-pilot hometown in state of disbelief

In his hometown of Montabaur, everyone has been talking about Andreas Lubitz. The townspeople have expressed complete shock over the tragedy.

The small city of Montabaur on the edge of Germany's Westerwald mountain range would hardly be a blip on anyone's radar if it wasn't connected to the country's high-speed rail system. Its idyllic medieval downtown is just like so many others in Germany, with a Gothic town hall and timber-framed houses. Its most distinguishing feature is the bright yellow Baroque castle that looks down over the center of the city.

The large contingent of police that got off the train with me on Thursday seemed quite out of place in the town of around 12,000 inhabitants. It didn't seem imaginable to anyone there that someone from their burg could have deliberately killed himself and 149 others.

"Are you here about the co-pilot?" one woman asked me, "it's just too sad."

Andreas Lubitz's name was on everyone's lips in his hometown, where his parents still live and where the young Germanwings co-pilot maintained his permanent address, a practice common in Germany even after children have moved out and established their own careers. He first learned to fly a glider in an airfield outside of town, my taxi driver told me, aghast at what had brought such notoriety there to Montabaur.

Despite their shock and sadness, the people of Montabaur were exceedingly friendly and eager to be of help. One townsperson even offered to drive me where I need to go in her car so I didn't have to stay out in the driving rain.

Silence and darkness

The only time I heard a "no" is at the town hall - no comment, we didn't know him, this is a matter for the police, said the office of Mayor Klaus Mies.

The mood is similar in the Lubitz's neighborhood, where the only movement is from the hoards of journalists from every corner of the earth and the strong police presence making sure they don't get too close to the house as they searched it.

Lubitz's parents were thought to be in France near the crash site.

A heavy silence hung over the whole area. A newly built quarter up on a hill, each and every well-kept house was dark, betraying no signs of movement inside. The few neighbors who dared to leave their houses or answer their doorbells all said something similar, they weren't close with the family, but they seemed like good people. These were the adjectives that kept repeating themselves - good, well-liked, involved.

Across Germany, the feeling on Thursday was one of disbelief. As one man in Montabaur put it, "You never think it will touch your life or someone near you. How can this family ever find peace?"

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