Thousands gather to honor terminally ill Amsterdam mayor
Thousands of people gathered at the official residence of former Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan on Wednesday evening, to honor him and thank him with a minutes-long ovation, AT5 reports.
People started gathering in front of Van der Laan's Herengracht home at 7:00 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. there was thundering applause, that lasted for minutes. The ovation was followed by a song. Thousands of voices raised in singing 'Aan de Amsterdamse Grachten'.
After the song, Van der Laan's wife, Femke, and their children came outside to thank everyone for the beautiful gesture. "Your mayor would've loved to stand here himself, but unfortunately that can't be. But he did hear you and he enjoyed it", Femke said to the gathered crowd, according to the Telegraaf. "On behalf of my husband, I would like to thank you for this beautiful gesture and all the sweet reactions over the past days. They are a massive support. Thank you."
Eberhard van der Laan was indeed listening from inside. Photographer Ferry de Kok managed to snap a picture of the mayor watching through the window.
— De Telegraaf (@telegraaf) September 20, 2017
After Femke and the children went back inside, the initiators of the event asked the gathered crowed to return home, to give Van der Laan and his family privacy and peace, according to RTL Nieuws.
Van der Laan really appreciated the gesture, the municipality of Amsterdam said in a statement on Facebook. "Mayor van der Laan wishes to thank everyone for the impressive applause and beautiful song. He heard everything very well and found it heart warming!"
Van der Laan, 62, was diagnosed with metastasized lung cancer in January. He informed Amsterdam residents about his diagnosis in an open letter, writing that he will still be their mayor for as long as possible. Over the past eight months, his health visibly deteriorated. On Monday he wrote another letter to Amsterdam residents, saying that the time has come for him to step down. His doctors informed him that they can do nothing more for him. His announcement was met with sorrow and understanding.
Deputy mayor Kasja Ollongren is taking over his duties for the time being.