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Ethiopian Airlines Crash Leaves 35 Countries Mourning


The Ethiopian Airlines crash yesterday has left a good part of the world in mourning. The victims came from 35 different countries. Many of them worked for the United Nations, which lost at least 21 staffers. NPR's Eyder Peralta has this remembrance.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: All across the world, United Nations facilities fly their flags at half-staff. In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opens a session with somber words.


ANTONIO GUTERRES: A global tragedy has hit close to home, and the United Nations is united in grief.

PERALTA: Many of the U.N. staffers were headed to a big environmental conference at the U.N. in Nairobi.


GUTERRES: Our colleagues were women and men, junior professionals and seasoned officials.

PERALTA: The Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees lost three staffers. Nadia Ali and Jackson Musoni worked in a war-torn region of Sudan, and Jessica Hyba worked in Somalia. All of them leave behind small children. UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi says the three are an example of how to keep going despite heartbreak.


FILIPPO GRANDI: So it is a very sad occasion, but also an occasion for us to come together to celebrate the lives of generous and devoted and committed people.

PERALTA: Among the others who perished were academics, diplomats and artists. The Nigerian author Pius Adesanmi was one of the best thinkers on post-colonial Africa. He was on Wandia Njoya's dissertation committee at Penn State.

WANDIA NJOYA: He was funny, but he was also a very committed and intelligent scholar.

PERALTA: To Njoya, who teaches literature in Nairobi, this plane crash touched the heart of a whole continent.

NJOYA: Talking of Pius, he had a vision for Africa. So this is not only a big loss, but a very symbolic one.

PERALTA: Symbolic, just like the Addis Ababa-to-Nairobi route this plane was on. It's a route that binds two African powerhouses. It also connects the African Union to the United Nations. It's a route that symbolizes some of the continent's grandest ambitions, and many of the people on that plane represented just that. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.