HILVERSUM, The Netherlands - Gray skies and rain matched the somber mood at a military base where the bodies of 74 victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were taken for forensic identification Friday.
Thousands of people have turned out this week to line the 160-mile route where processions of hearses have driven the coffins to the military facility in Hilversum from an airbase in Eindhoven. The first 40 of the plain, wooden coffins were flown from the crash site in Ukraine on Wednesday, followed by 74 more on Thursday and the same number again on Friday.
Rinze van der Ploeg was among Friday's mourners. "It’s terrible what happened over there," he told NBC News. "I want to give my condolences to all the victims and all the family and friends of the victims."
Of the 298 people who died when the Boeing 777 was shot down, 193 were Dutch citizens.
"We are all Dutch people and you feel connected to each other,” der Ploeg added. “I’m really sad with what happened over there and I hope this will connect us, connect the world, to bring some peace, because it’s a terrible event."
Another mourner, Emmy Kattenbelt, added: "I think its important to teach your child that when something like this happens, that you pay your respects and that you're not alone in the world.
"I realize that life is so important and I have so much to be grateful for."
But the raw grief was playing out alongside another narrative, as a small group of Dutch and Australian investigators arrived at the crash site and walked through the wreckage. The scene has been one of chaos on the week since the crash, with pro-Russian separatists giving limited access to international monitors.
The Dutch and Australian governments, which lost 27 citizens on the plane, said they were ready to send dozens of security force personnel to secure what was left of the evidence.
The U.S. says it believes the separatists - trained and supported by Russia - probably shot down the plane by mistake. Despite U.S. intelligence officials saying they could find no direct link to Russian President Vladimir Putin, at Hilversum sorrow was spilling over into anger.
"I think we should put a lot of pressure on Putin, to stop whatever he is planning to do, because I think he is a very dangerous man," Kattenbelt.
Chapman Bell / NBC News
Memorials to the victims of the MH17 plane crash at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Friday.
Alexander Smith in London contributed to this report.
First published July 25 2014, 8:25 AM