Three years after a fire that changed Christmas forever: Maxime (14) is still missing every day in Muiden

Exactly three years ago Muiden turned black. In the early morning of 24 December, a house fire broke out on Hellingstraat. Two teenagers manage to escape, but help comes too late for Maxime van der Ster (14). In this documentary, NH Nieuws talks to relatives, friends and firefighters about the events of the past and about the remaining loss.

It’s Christmas Eve morning: December 24, 2019. In a house on Hellingstraat in Muiden, the bundles are already under the Christmas tree. New Maxime sneakers are included, crisp white with a red print. Maxim already knows what’s in her present, because she slipped a secret, and that will come out later. She can’t wait to unpack it.

Three teenagers are sleeping upstairs, parents have just left for work. Finish some last things and then Christmas. But less than half an hour later, Mother Manu van der Steer’s phone rings: “There is a fire in your house. You have to come at once, it’s all wrong.”

Three years later, the loss is still incomprehensible. Opposite the kitchen is an altar to Maxim. In addition to pictures, a box with stone stars and a friend book, there are also sneakers from the Christmas gift. Snow is still white, because it has not been worn.

“Maxim was a sweet and cheerful child, not afraid of anything and sometimes with a big mouth,” says her mother. Her father, Mino van der Steer, adds: “She was an adventurous girl, she was middle-aged. And she always wanted to be there for others.” “But she also had to struggle in life, because she was deaf in one ear. She didn’t want to show it, so she was very good at making sure you didn’t notice.”

Hamster in the bathroom

Maxime grew up in Modine, with her two-year-older brother Luca, parents Mino and Manu and a dog Ollie. She has many girlfriends, is in three hafu and is the goalkeeper of her hockey team. “She was the best at it, stopping all the balls,” says teammate Anna Gudemans. And Maxim dared everything, told her friends. “You often end up in crazy situations with her. And she always takes her hamster in the bathroom with her, haha,” says Noor Sharef.

At Muiderberg Cemetery, a group of friends remember Maxim. Miller Van Creel was her first grade school boyfriend. “She asked me to date. I had to think about it for a while, and it brought a lot of tears, but luckily it worked out in the end,” he says.

“I’ll never forget the look in people’s eyes on the street when I pulled it out.”

Firefighter Thomas Griffin

November 1 is Maxim’s birthday, which remains a difficult day for many. “I was always a year younger than Maxime, and suddenly I met her. It wasn’t right,” says Nour. Maxim turned seventeen this year. “When I see girls of this age, I just feel jealous,” says Mother Manu. “Maxim should have been riding there, I think.”

Sleepwear party

Back to the morning of December 24, 2019. Maxime had a sleepover party elsewhere, but little sleepovers were achieved. I decided to go home early in the morning to get into bed. “Hi bitch, good morning,” she greets her mother as she turns the corner. “Baymax,” Manu replied, shaking his head. “This is how it can be again.”

In the kitchen, Mino and Manu are getting ready to go to work. Nour’s friend is also there. She always sleeps with Maxime when her mother, who is a flight attendant, has to fly. She is going to ride with Manu so that she can surprise her mother in Schiphol. Maxime says she wants to watch Netflix before she goes to sleep, but when her mom and Nour peek around the corner a little later, she’s already fast asleep. “We laughed a lot about it,” says Manu.

fire

After a moment it was quiet in the house. Dog Ollie is with her to work, brother Luca (then girlfriend) and Maxime sleep upstairs. And then, all of a sudden, a fire broke out in the fuse box on the ground floor. “According to the fire brigade, this house was a house where a fire should not have started,” says Father Minoo. “Everything was fine. And yet it happened.”

Sophie Morris, Maxime’s friend, was the first to spot the fire. She also returns from the slumber party. She is passing through Hellingstraat when she sees flames behind the window on the ground floor. “I tried calling 112, it didn’t work because of the rain, so I crashed into a shop.”

With the shopkeeper’s help, Luca and his girlfriend are able to get out through the window in the back of the house. When the firefighters arrived a little later, they searched the rest of the house. “The fire was quickly put out, but you couldn’t see a thing because of the smoke and soot,” says firefighter Thomas Griffien.

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Fighting at AMC

Along with fellow Muiden Volunteer Fire Brigade, they feel their way through the house. “I finally found Maxime in her room upstairs,” says Thomas. “I will never forget the look in people’s eyes on the street when I pulled it out.”

Firefighters immediately begin CPR and continue until paramedics take over. Maksim, Luka and his girlfriend are transferred to AMC. The latter two quickly recover, but Maxime fights for her life for four days.

It seems to be getting better for a while. “Max, if you can, you must prove today that you can make it happen,” says mother Manu to her daughter in the hospital bed. But on Friday, December 27, it became clear that Maxim was not going to do this. You inhaled a lot of smoke and soot during the fire and the damage is too great. “You can go, my dear,” said Manu. “This is also what love is: if it doesn’t work, it won’t work.”

Silence

And then it calms down in Muiden. The sea of ​​flowers grows in front of the house on Hellingstraat. People are calling for no fireworks to be set off on New Year’s Eve and for the planned New Year’s party at the Groote Zeesluis to be cancelled.

Friday, January 3. It rained on the day of the funeral. Muiden says goodbye to Maxim with great affection. The square in front of the church is full of people wearing gowns and umbrellas. Inside the chapel is Maxime’s coffin, painted light blue with white stars on the lid. and above it, at the tip of the foot, were the beautiful new shoes, which had miraculously emerged from the fire unscathed.

It is followed by a time of mourning, great grief and loss of family and friends. In addition, everything must be arranged, as the Van der Ster family’s house is uninhabitable. “At first we didn’t want to go back,” says Manu. But Luca convinces them to do so. “We have a lot of good memories here and just one bad experience,” says Minoo.

“I feel like an amputation, like I’ve lost a piece of my leg. A deficiency is always a handicap.”

Mino van der Star

And so they work hard for ten months, nothing stays the same in the house. Shortly after the start of the renovation, Corona also breaks out in the Netherlands, but the family continues, as best they can, without Maxime. “The support on the street in Muiden was nice, but sometimes I just couldn’t stand it,” says Manu. “If I have to go to the bakery, I put on a hat. Look down, don’t make eye contact, and then I come home quickly.”

Now, three years after the fire, the family is doing relatively well. “Luca passed the HAVO exam the year after the fire,” says Mino. “After two more years of pre-university education, he now has a gap year. He works as a diving instructor on Bonaire.” Menno and Manou are visiting again soon. “We also learned that from the death of Maxime, we should enjoy life and make beautiful trips,” says Manu.

But the pain and loss they will always carry with them. “Grief is different, but no less,” says Manu. “It literally feels like an amputation,” says Minoo. “It’s like I’m missing a piece of my leg. I can learn to live with it, but it remains a handicap that I will always carry with me.”

What Minoo misses most is the evening rituals he spends with his daughter. “Maxim never had any secrets, she always told everything. Even before bed.” Every evening she discussed with her father, minute by minute, what she had experienced that day. “We called it Closing Day,” says Minoo. “That was the moment we came together. It’s not like that anymore.”

Celebrating Christmas is also a thing of the past in the Van der Ster house. “There won’t be a Christmas tree here for now,” says Manu. “Every year we relive the bad movie four days, between December 24 and 27. So this year we’re going to look for distractions outside, and see if that’s the answer.”

stars

Maxim lives on in the memory of many. “We’ve received little star stones from friends and are leaving them in special places for Maxim,” says Minou. For example, there are already Maxime stars in many family travel destinations. “Underwater in Bonaire, left during a diving trip. Or in the Louvre in Paris,” says Manu. “And sometimes it is very difficult to hide them without seeing the guards, haha.”

On Maxime’s deathbed, the family was asked if their organs could be donated to others in need. Mino, Manu and Luka agreed. “A year later we heard that the donation was successful for four people,” says Minoo. It’s nice to know that Maxime’s death has brought some good to others. “The college recipient even wrote us an — anonymously — letter. He got his life back, thanks to our maxim.”

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