MH17 memorial starts in Nieuwegein

The MH17 memorial in Nieuwegein started at 2:00 p.m. About 1,300 relatives and friends of the victims have gathered at the convention center to commemorate the disaster, which happened one year ago today. 

The commemoration was organized by the Stichting Vliegramp MH17, in which the relatives are united. The program was set up by the relatives themselves. As in the national memorial in November, the names of all 298 victims will be read. There will also be speeches, music and dancing.

Unlike the national memorial last year, this commemoration is not being live broadcast on radio and television. According to RTL Nieuws journalist Jeroen Wetzels, a small group of journalists have been allowed to attend the commemoration, but they have been asked to be respectful and not tweet from in the hall. A summary of the memorial will be made available to the press afterwards.

A massive wall full of stuffed animals and toys has been set up at the location of the commemoration. The toys come from Schiphol Airport, where

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice, Minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs, Minister Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs and State Secretary Wilma Mansveld of Infrastructure and Environment are attending the commemoration on behalf of the government, NOS reports.

The convention center in Niewegein is a familiar place for the family members. This is the same place that they gathered shortly after the disaster to get information from emergency services. During that gathering the family members received support from the royal couple and members of the Cabinet. They later also came to the center to get information about the progress of the identification process.

Earlier today a , where sunflowers grown from seeds picked up at the crash site were placed in front of the St. Vitus church.

Schiphol also prepared departure hall 3 as a commemoration site for anyone who wishes to visit. A number of people went to lay down flowers at the departure hall, just like a year ago.

Both KLM and Schiphol expressed their condolences with friends and family of the victims on Twitter. "Today our thoughts are with the victims of the MH17 tragedy and their relatives and friends", Schiphol wrote, with a picture of the Dutch flag flying at half-mast. KLM wrote: "Our hearts go out to all the families & friends of the victims of flight MH17." This tweet is accompanied by a black ribbon with MH17 on it.