There were 239 passengers and crew on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. These are some of their stories.
ALWAYS NEW PASSIONS
In 2006, Chinese artist Liu Rusheng reflected on his life, concluding with gratitude that “fate has been very kind to me.”
As a baby born outside Nanjing in 1938, he was abandoned several times as his family fled invading Japanese troops. He later survived a truck collision, political persecution, three heart attacks and the vicious swirling currents of the Yangtze River.
“After these narrow escapes, I have come to cherish life more,” Liu said in a blog post that was written in connection with a showing of his work. “I have become more open-minded and more detached.”
Liu, who was traveling with his wife when the Malaysia Airlines plane vanished, was part of a delegation of Chinese artists and calligraphers returning home after an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Nineteen artists, six family members and four staff were aboard the plane.
In his blog post, written when he was in his late 60s, Liu said he continued to find new passions as he aged.
“Even as I am approaching 70, I like new things,” he wrote. “In my spare time, I have learned how to drive, how to use a computer, and I study photography and production. My life is fulfilling and joyous. I love to sing and to run in the rain. My wife says I am an old child who loves singing, drinking and going barefoot.”
A BUSY FATHER
Workdays regularly went long for Wong Wai Sang. The businessman, who ran the sales and marketing department for a Malaysian property company, often left home at 5 a.m. to beat the traffic from the Kuala Lumpur suburb where he lived, returning up to 18 hours later.
Major events were sometimes barely noticed. Wong turned 53 on March 7. But his wife saw him only briefly in the morning before he headed to work. She and her daughters were out when he came home to pack before the Malaysia Airlines flight to Beijing.
He called home just before boarding.
“He said he didn’t bring enough warm clothing as it was very cold in Beijing,” said his wife, Tan Kuee Lian. “I told him to buy cold-weather clothing there.” She and their daughters then wished him a happy birthday.
His daughter Eliz Wong Yun Yi, who studies in Japan, had been home for a holiday when her father took the flight. She was glad, she said, to have had the chance to see more of him for a few days.
Her 25th birthday was March 16, and she had been planning to celebrate their birthdays together on that day.
“I wanted to surprise him but there is no chance now,” she said. “My mother is heartbroken, but she has accepted it. My sister and I still believe he is alive. We cannot accept that he is gone unless they find real evidence that the plane has crashed.”
A HOLIDAY WITHOUT THE CHILDREN
Indonesians Sugianto Lo and his wife, Vinny Chynthya Tio, were taking a short break away from their three children, their first in more than 17 years as parents. It was hard. Family members had to convince them the children would be fine while they were gone.
The couple called or texted the children on each leg of their journey before finally talking off for Beijing, last communicating with their oldest, 17-year-old Antonio Nugroho.
“They asked him to be a good example for his siblings, and take care of them,” said Santi Lo, Sugianto’s younger sister.
In many ways the couple were representative of Indonesia’s burgeoning middle class, many of them now traveling abroad for the first time. Sugianto was an electrical contractor, Vinny a mechanical engineer.
The couple, both 47, lived with their children in a two-story building in Medan, Indonesia’s third-largest city and home to a large Chinese-Indonesian population. They too were of Chinese descent. Sugianto wanted to see the Great Wall, Vinny to eat Chinese vegetarian food, not easy to find in Indonesia.
They took the trip after a friend gave them the plane tickets.
“Like a dream come true, they were so happy and very excited to go,” said Santi, who is now caring for the children.
A SUCCESSFUL SON
Puspanathan Subramaniam’s father was a poorly paid security guard, a man born into poverty on a Malaysian rubber plantation who had saved for years to put his son through school. The young boy succeeded, and Puspanathan, 34, eventually got a job in the information technology department of an engineering firm.
As successful children are often expected to do in this part of the world, he had recently visited his parents to bring food and pay the household bills: water, electricity, telephone and satellite TV. His parents were proud of him, and also knew they could depend on him to support them in their old age.
“We planted a tree and thought we would enjoy the fruits of our labor,” his father, Subramaniam Gurusamy, 60, told reporters not long after the flight disappeared. “I don’t know what to do now,”
Puspanathan, who was flying to Beijing for work, leaves behind a wife and two sons, aged 1 and 3. While he traveled regularly for work, his father said the children had clung to him when he left for the flight to Beijing.
“The boys were crying, holding on to their father and asking him not to go. It was the first time they have acted like that when he travels,” the father said. “I don’t know what to think.”