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MH370: Hope transcends frustration in quest to bring families closure

By David Molko, CNN
May 6, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
A policewoman watches a couple whose son was on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 cry outside the airline's office building in Beijing after officials refused to meet with them on Wednesday, June 11. The jet has been missing since March 8. A policewoman watches a couple whose son was on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 cry outside the airline's office building in Beijing after officials refused to meet with them on Wednesday, June 11. The jet has been missing since March 8.
HIDE CAPTION
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The search for the missing Boeing 777 has gone on for eight weeks now
  • No closer to solving mystery of what happened to the 239 men, women, and children
  • Despite frustration, searchers remain determined to bring closure to relatives of passengers

Perth, Australia (CNN) -- "I'm an engineer, so we don't talk emotions too much." Those were the words of Capt. Mark Matthews of the U.S. Navy shortly after the Australian Defense vessel Ocean Shield had discovered a series of pings in the southern Indian Ocean.

Perhaps he didn't want to discuss his feelings. But he had a twinkle in his eye, a bit of what he called "cautious optimism." I've seen that same glimmer shining through on the faces of dozens of others involved in the arduous search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It's been there through each new lead, and even through some of the setbacks.

READ: Search in 'more difficult' phase

The search for the missing Boeing 777 has gone on for eight weeks now. We've all had to learn a new technical language: from Inmarsat satellite data and the "Doppler Effect," to the TPL-25 and Bluefin-21. We've heard countless theories about where the plane might have gone and who might have been flying it.

Both the science and the science fiction have, at times, almost drowned out what this search is about at its core: solving the mystery of what happened to the 239 men, women, and children who were on board MH370.

Search for MH370 intensifies, expands
Timeline of the vanished MH370
Flight 370 report raises serious questions
Malaysia Airlines to close hotel centers

Closure

It takes people to find clues and to follow the trail of where they lead. People who are working tirelessly across borders and time zones, putting their lives on hold with the aim of bringing even the smallest bit of closure to the families of those who have been lost, and to prevent their nightmare from ever happening again.

Some, like Capt. Matthews, might humbly say that they're just doing their jobs. Others remain anonymous, like the international team in Kuala Lumpur, who did much to give the search a tangible focus, even if that focus has shifted several times.

READ: Mixed messages, lost time before search

I've been covering the missing flight for CNN for more than 50 days in Malaysia and Australia. I can't pretend that what I do compares with the dedication of the hundreds of service members from China to New Zealand, who have flown tirelessly day after day over millions of square kilometers of the Indian Ocean. I can't pretend that I understand the pain of Selamat Omar, who lost his 29-year-old son, or Danica Weeks, whose husband, Paul, disappeared on the way to start a new job in Mongolia.

But as a journalist, I've felt at least a small part of their confusion and frustration. I recall the difficulty in getting a candid response from Malaysian authorities in the early days of the search -- the way they sidestepped almost all tough questions during that first week after the plane vanished.

I remember the Chinese family members who were brave enough to try to take their quest for answers public and were dragged out of the press room in Kuala Lumpur, screaming and crying. Thinking about their grief, the expressions on their faces that afternoon, still hits me hard.

Human spirit

There have also been moments that have made me proud to be telling this story -- moments that have to do with the human spirit. The card from a 7-year-old on the Wall of Hope inside Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which said she was ready to greet the MH370 passengers as soon as they landed safely.

The moment I saw the pinger locator and Bluefin-21 robotic submarine on the dock at Garden Island in Western Australia, I felt a sense of awe and honor standing just steps away from keys that still have the potential to unlock this puzzle.

The last few weeks have been torture for relatives of passengers who were on MH370.\n
The last few weeks have been torture for relatives of passengers who were on MH370.

And the moment search chief Angus Houston told the world "I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft ... in the not too distant future. But we haven't found it yet because this is a very challenging business." A voice of reassurance and reason, even if the challenge soon outweighed the optimism.

Over the past eight weeks, I've witnessed something. It's called hope. It was in the words of the housekeeper who answered the front door at Captain Zaharie's house in the Kuala Lumpur suburbs. It was in in the wake of the Ocean Shield as it pulled away from the dock at Stirling Naval Base and made speed for the search area. It was there when I sat a few feet away from the Malaysia Airlines CEO on Day 4, and it was there when I spoke to Captain Matthews around Day 44.

Just a few days ago, I felt it again, when I returned to Pearce Air Force Base outside Perth. As I stepped onto the tarmac, I recalled the first time I'd done so, more than a month earlier, to welcome back one of our reporters after she'd taken part in an 11-hour search flight.

Solving the mystery

Almost 350 flights later, the massive air search was over with no trace of MH370. Planes from seven countries were lined up in formation at Pearce. Flight crews from Australia to Malaysia to South Korea traded stories, reflecting on the moments behind them, before pausing to recognize the task that still lies ahead.

I remember what a young American pilot who flew on the P8 Poseidon search plane told me: that his greatest disappointment after weeks of looking out over the vast open ocean was not being able to give the families what they needed the most. And that if he could continue the search, he would, until the day he found something.

After all these weeks, it's a feeling that remains strong as ever -- the hope and the belief that we may eventually be able to solve this mystery, and that the families of 239 passengers and crew will one day have the answer to a crucial question: Why?

READ: In MH370 search, incompetence, lost time

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Part of complete coverage on
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
The search for MH370 is moving to an area farther south in the Indian Ocean, said the Australian Deputy Prime Minister.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 0033 GMT (0833 HKT)
Erin Burnett speaks to Miles O'Brien about the latest in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Ten experts say that the search for MH370 should move hundreds of miles away from the previous search area.
June 17, 2014 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
His wife never came home from her flight on MH370, and now K.S. Narendran is left to imagine the worst of possible truths without knowing.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Families are desperate for results as the search for MH370 reaches a grim milestone. Anna Coren reports from Beijing.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
Relatives of passengers are launching an effort to raise $5 million for investigations and a "whistle blower" reward.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 0731 GMT (1531 HKT)
Making sure another plane is never "lost" again is the immediate priority for the airline industry.
May 30, 2014 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
This handout photo taken on April 7, 2014 and released on April 9, 2014 by Australian Defence shows Maritime Warfare Officer, Sub Lieutenant Ryan Penrose watching HMAS Success as HMAS Perth approaches for a replenishment at sea while searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Two fresh signals have been picked up Australian ship Ocean Shield in the search for missing Malaysian flight MH370, raising hopes that wreckage will be found within days even as black box batteries start to expire.
Was the sound of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 striking the water captured by ocean devices used to listen for signs of nuclear blasts?
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2229 GMT (0629 HKT)
What was believed to be the best hope of finding the missing plane is now being called a false hope. Rene Marsh explains.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2105 GMT (0505 HKT)
Involved parties, including the manufacturer Boeing, are bracing for a long public relations siege.
May 29, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
Official: The four acoustic pings at the center of the search for Flight 370 are no longer believed to have come from the plane's black boxes.
May 27, 2014 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
There is one fundamental question which continues to swirl: Has Inmarsat got its numbers right?
May 27, 2014 -- Updated 1213 GMT (2013 HKT)
Data from communications between satellites and missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was released
May 27, 2014 -- Updated 0742 GMT (1542 HKT)
Family members of the people aboard missing plane want independent investigators to review the newly released satellite data.
May 21, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest explains what kind of information should be contained in the Inmarsat data from Flight MH370.
May 27, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
The underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane will effectively be put on hold this week, and may not resume until August at the earliest.
May 19, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
Movie-makers in Cannes have announced they're making a thriller based on the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370.
May 6, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
The search for the missing Boeing 777 has gone on for eight weeks now. CNN's David Molko looks back at this difficult, emotional assignment.
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