More than a thousand people in the western German town of Haltern am See have flocked to a church memorial honoring those killed on Flight 4U 9525. Sixteen students and two teachers from the town's school were on board.
The church, the St. Sixtus Kirche in Haltern am See, could not accommodate the roughly 1,000 people who turned out to pay their respects on Wednesday evening. With a packed house of around 650 inside, the ceremony was relayed to a further 500 in the square outside the Catholic chapel via loudspeakers.
"The unimaginable has happened," mayor Bodo Klimpel said during the service, "but death cannot be the final word." Klimpel read out the names of those killed last Tuesday, when German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz crashed the plane in what investigators say was likely an intentional act.
Haltern's tragic tie to the downed Germanwings plane quickly became apparent after the crash; 16 students and two teachers from the local high school, the Joseph-König-Gymnasium, were returning from a school exchange trip to Spain on the Airbus A320.
Students from the school read out entries from a book of condolences at the ceremony, Johann Sebastian Bach's "Air" Orchestral Suite No. 3 was also played during the proceedings.
Priest appeals for lull in speculation
"Everybody in this town knows somebody who is affected," priest Martin Ahls said of the town with a population of a little less than 40,000. At one point, discussing the flood of media reports - some of them more accurate than others - in the aftermath of the crash, Ahls said: "Sometimes you simply wish to close your eyes and ears, in order to finally have some peace."
German President Joachim Gauck and the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hannelore Kraft, attended a private ceremony at the same church last Friday for students, teachers and others affected.
The head teacher from the high school, Ulrich Wessel, also sought to console those who had lost loved ones.
"No words can describe what you have been through," Wessel said. "But death only truly comes once we're forgotten."
A further ceremony for the 150 people killed on board Flight 4U 9525 is planned for April 17 at Cologne's cathedral. New figures on Wednesday readjusted the number of German citizens killed in the crash from 75 down to 72; several of the passengers held dual nationalities.
Spohr promises continued Lufthansa help
The CEO of Germanwings parent company Lufthansa, Carsten Spohr, again visited the crash site in the French Alps on Wednesday, warning that it could "take a long, long time for all of us to understand how this could happen."
Spohr also promised that his airline "will not only help this week, we will help for as long as help is necessary."
Meanwhile, the veracity of a video purported to show the final moments on board Flight 4U 9525 remains unconfirmed. German mass-circulation daily "Bild" and French outlet "Paris Match" both claimed on Tuesday to have obtained access to such a video, without showing it.
Prosecutors said at the time they doubted the existence of the film, and on Wednesday, Marseille's chief prosecutor Brice Robin issued a clear appeal to both news outlets:
"In the event that someone has such a video, they should turn it over to police without delay," Robin told reporters.
msh/gsw (AFP, dpa)