Just two days after learning that his eldest brother and his sister-in-law were on doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Drew Ryder of Willmar, Minn., said he and his family harbor no anger toward those responsible for shooting down the plane.
“We’re not looking for any justice here for those who did this,” Ryder, 52, said Sunday. “If anything, we want to reach out to them. … Obviously there’s some evil here, but it’s not our way to seek revenge or seek more violence, but to say let’s see what we can do to help these people change their hearts.”
Ryder said Arjen Ryder, 54, and his wife, Yvonne, 52, lived in Albany on the southwest coast of the state of Western Australia. They had three grown children and five grandchildren, all of whom live within 4 or 5 miles of them. Arjen had worked for 30 years for the W.A. Department of Agriculture and was an expert on the salt content in soil, a huge problem in Australia.
Yvonne Ryder was a prekindergarten teacher at a local school.
The family originally emigrated from the Netherlands and first settled in Adelaide, then in Western Australia. Arjen was the eldest of seven siblings. He and Yvonne were on a three-week European vacation, visiting family in the Netherlands and spending time in France.
“He was an active, adventurous person,” said Drew Ryder, the second-oldest in the family. Arjen always had a twinkle in his eye and was the one who would initiate activities.
“That’s what I’ll miss a lot,” Drew Ryder said. Yvonne, he said, was his brother’s “perfect match,” the calming influence in the marriage.
“Both were just very warm, generous people. They enfolded those around them. They touched a lot of lives in their community.”
The Ryder family — which includes five surviving siblings — are members of the Christian Reformed Church, a denomination centered around the concept that a person’s faith influences every part of life.
“God owns everything, controls everything, sees everything,” Ryder said. “We don’t believe in chance, don’t think things happen without a reason.”
Although they are grieving the loss of “two very precious people” and all the others who died on the plane, “We also believe they’re in a better place,” Ryder said. “As we look at it, there’s a divine plan. We just don’t know yet why they died, what that plan is. It gives us huge comfort that they’re in a better place.
“If you’d asked them 10 minutes before they died if they were comfortable dying, they’d say yes.”
Drew Ryder said he and his family plan to fly to Australia for a memorial service next Monday in Albany.