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Family's loss shows horror of MH17, CNN journalists break down

By Victoria Eastwood, CNN
updated 11:00 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Meeting the mother of victims 10-year-old Miguel and 19-year-old Shaka Calehr caused CNN journalists to break down
  • The journalists saw dead bodies, had guns aimed at them at check points and were present when the dead were transported

Editor's note: CNN field producer Victoria Eastwood traveled to Eastern Ukraine to report on the devastation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with Chris Cuomo, co-anchor of CNN's "New Day." From there they went to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport where the flight originated. Here's a look at how the trip affected them.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (CNN) -- It was impossible not to be deeply moved by Harun Calehr when he and his family joined Chris Cuomo live on "New Day" on Wednesday.

You see, up until that moment we had been detached.

We may have seen the bodies of the dead scattered across the Eastern Ukrainian countryside, distorted, rotting, a dog running from the crash site with something in its mouth.

New Day's Chris Cuomo reported from eastern Ukraine and at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and provided these photos. Here, an overhead compartment from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 rests intact in a tree near the crash site in Hrabove, Ukraine. New Day's Chris Cuomo reported from eastern Ukraine and at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and provided these photos. Here, an overhead compartment from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 rests intact in a tree near the crash site in Hrabove, Ukraine.
See behind-the-scenes at MH17 crash site
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Seen the scattered belongings, many strangely intact, the house keys, the Bali travel guide, the child's toy perched on top of the wreckage, retrieved by a villager from where it had fallen from the sky.

We may have dashed along potted roads, finding new routes to avoid the shelling, pleading with the sun not to fall so we could be safer. Through check point after check point, guns aimed at us. Convoys of tanks and artillery on those same roads, belonging to both sides and wondered their destination, purpose and origin.

We may have sat across from the self-appointed Prime Minister of his self-declared Republic and asked him if he and his men, so many of whom are from Russia, had shot down the plane. Eye to eye, asked him if he was backed, armed and incited by Russia.

And we joined the OSCE monitors as they gathered around the train being used to transport the dead from this militia controlled so called Republic, and balked with them at the stench, the hacking, repulsive, gut wrenching smell as the refrigerated train door opened to reveal desperate, bagged and reeking cargo.

MH17: What happens to the victims' bodies next?

But standing in front of a family who lost two of their children, ten year old Miguel and nineteen year old Shaka Calehr. Two bright lives, crushed by mistake or design. Looking at their mother, far too emotional to even speak. That was too much.

We came off air for a commercial break, but actually it was a break down. We'd covered every angle of the story in Eastern Ukraine and standing in Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, the origin of that desperate flight, surrounded by those paying their respects, laying flowers on Holland's day of national mourning.

As journalists we are often fickle and fleeting in our gaze, but we remain proud and committed to impartiality. Too often impartiality breeds a lack of empathy, not wanting to be drawn too close to one side or the other.

But today was different. For the Calehr family, and those just like them, ripped apart, bereft and desperate for answers, this was never their war. We stood together, in front of the camera and then behind it, and we mourned too.

Mother of Two MH17 Victims Regrets Not Heeding Son's Fears

CNN's Chris Cuomo contributed to this report.

Watch New Day weekdays at 6am-9am ET. For the latest on New Day click here

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