Among the victims of the Malaysian Airlines disaster Thursday were at least 100 HIV/AIDS researchers and advocates. The International AIDS Society said a number of its members were on board.
"These are men and women who dedicate their own lives to saving the lives of others," said President Barack Obama. "They were taken from us in a senseless act."
The group, committed to finding a cure to the deadly disease,will never make it to the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Australia, scheduled for this Sunday.
The flag at the Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs flies at half-staff and flowers were placed in honor of the victims. One of them was prominent Dutch scientist and world-renowned HIV researcher, Dr. Joep Lange, former president of the International AIDS Society.
"What if the cure for Aids was on that plane?" asked Barry Dayton, the director of marketing and communications at the Desert AIDS Project.
Lange worked tirelessly to get affordable AIDS drugs for HIV positive patients living in poor countries.
"We're all just bracing ourselves to arrive and find out who else may have been on that flight. It's just, it's unbelievable. It's not really real yet," said AIDS researcher Dr. Maria Ekstrand.
"What none of us will ever know is what is the intellectual capital that went down with that plane," said Dayton.
The world health organization told CNN that their spokesman, Glenn Thomas, was on board the doomed flight. His life and so many others were cut tragically short.