BEIJING - Before she boarded the ill-fated Flight MH370, Mrs Wang Dan, 54, had sent a WeChat message to her son.
"Don't be late to pick me up!" she jokingly warned him using the Chinese messaging app, referring to her scheduled 6.30am arrival in Beijing.
Mr Wang Meng, 25, overslept anyway, but later woke up to what he calls a "living nightmare", which enters its thirteenth day today.
A phone call from his frantic father at about 9.30am roused the IT engineer from his sleep. The older man told his son that he had been waiting at the airport for hours, but there was still no sign of MH370.
They would find out later that the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane carrying 239 people, 153 of them Chinese nationals, went missing about 50 minutes after take-off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The Boeing 777-200's disappearance has since turned into one of the world's biggest aviation mysteries.
Mr Wang and his father, 56, went to the Metropark Lido Hotel after reading news reports that MAS had asked family members of the missing passengers to gather there. They have been there every day since, and have met airline and government officials on separate occasions.
Asked how it had been for him so far, the son told The Straits Times: "Du ri ru nian." The Chinese idiom refers to how days can pass like years when one is sick with worry.
"The officials and media, you count the days. We count the seconds," he said.
Like many of the other 300-plus relatives at the hotel, he strongly suspects foul play was involved, and that they were all being kept in the dark. "I can only guess, but I think the biggest suspects are the pilots in a possible hijacking," he said.
"After all, if all the signals went down because of mechanical failure rather than being turned off by someone, there would be evidence. If it was a crash, there would be debris. If the military shot it down, there would be an explosion. How can there be nothing at all?"
Mr Wang feels that his suspicions have been confirmed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. Datuk Seri Najib told reporters that the plane had turned back from its original path and its communication systems might have been disabled deliberately.
Mr Wang said after the press conference on Saturday: "We feel great, we feel there is real hope. I think they are negotiating with the hijackers now, or maybe the negotiations are already concluded and they are waiting for the right time to announce and bring the passengers home.
"Yesterday, I felt despair, today I feel hope."
He said he will continue to draw strength from the other families who are also in the same boat. He has become close friends with some of them.
"We have to be here together. We can't go home or go back to work - nobody outside knows what it feels like."
The group wants MAS to extend their hotel stay despite having been told it would be for a week. Besides providing two hotel rooms per family, the airline is also picking up the tab for their meals and has given each family 31,000 yuan (S$6,400) in spending money.
While he declined to reveal more about his mother, a housewife, her importance to the two men was obvious.
"I don't know what we are going to do without her," Mr Wang said, adding that his father seems to be holding up better than him.
Asked if he thinks the passengers are still alive, he said as his voice broke: "I can only hope."
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