A Costa Cruise ship sunk last night off the coast of Civitavecchia, Italy. Three have been reported dead. Forty are still missing. I first read about the tragedy early this morning via a link on Twitter to an article in the UK’s Daily Daily Mail Online.
This is the part that gives me chills:
We were crawling up a hallway, in the dark, with only the light from the life vest strobe flashing,’ her mother, Georgia Ananias, 61, said. ‘We could hear plates and dishes crashing, people slamming against walls.’
She recounted the moment when an Argentine couple handed her their three-year-old daughter, unable to keep their balance as the ship lurched to the side and the family found themselves standing on a wall.
Mrs Ananias said: ‘I grabbed the baby. But then I was being pushed down. I didn’t want the baby to fall down the stairs. I gave the baby back. I couldn’t hold her.
‘I thought that was the end and I thought they should be with their baby,’ she said.
My son is three-years-old. I imagine the terror I would feel as a mother, passing off my child into the arms of strangers as I tried to regain my balance, worrying that we may not ever make it safely to shore.
My mom is in her 60s. I can picture her holding this child for a brief moment and then passing the child back to the parents’ arms, wanting the family to be together, the baby to at least have the security of her own mother’s arms, if they were all to perish at sea.
I have sailed in those waters, docked at Civitavecchia before setting off on a whirlwind tour of Rome with my husband and then two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
The Costa Concordia’s captain has been arrested. The Titanic-like descriptions of the chaos during the evacuation is chilling, with many lifeboats not being launched due to inefficiencies by the crew. The emergency drill was not scheduled to even take place until the next evening, well after the ship set sail. Survivors left without money, credit cards, or a change of clothing are disgusted by the mishandled evacuation and treatment by Costa following their rescue.
This tragedy reminds me of a report on Dateline that I watched last year about Oceanos, a Greek ocean-liner that sank off South Africa’s eastern coast in 1991. I was horrified to learn how the ship’s captain and senior crew abandoned the ship and its passengers, leaving the entertainment crew to lead the heroic rescue of the remaining 571 passengers and crew left aboard.
Will I cruise again? Yes. But I will only sail with cruise lines that deserve my trust. A small few come to mind, with one in particular standing out, whose reputation and credibility is so steadfast, it seems impossible for such blunders to take place aboard their ships. Of course accidents can happen while at sea on any ship, but the human error and bungled emergency evacuations of both of the Costa and Oceanos ships is inexcusable.
Today I can’t stop imagining the horror of those onboard the sinking Costa ship and the heartache of family members whose loved ones cannot be found. I am thinking of that Argentine couple and the heartwrenching moment when their child was given back to them by a kindhearted woman. I am praying they made it ashore safely. I am praying for everyone involved.
Tragedies like this always snap me out of the skewed world of what only seems important and remind me of what really matters: family, love, kindness, compassion. I’d write more, but I’ve got two children that I need to go hug. I may never let go.