Families of Italy’s Costa Concordia cruise shipwreck victims returned to the site of the disaster yesterday as preparations got underway for a commemoration ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the fatal crash.
“It’s not easy to return,” said Kevin Rebello, whose brother was a waiter on the Costa Concordia and one of the 32 people who died.
His brother is one of two victims still missing.
“It brought back memories of those days when I used to travel up and down to Giglio island to know what’s happening. I have still not found peace,” he said.
Gazebos to host the hundreds of survivors expected to attend the ceremony have sprung up along the Tuscan island’s port, just a few hundred meters from where the ship keeled over with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board.
Mayor Sergio Ortelli said the islanders were keen to welcome back those who lived through the traumatic night of Jan. 13 last year. Many of them had sought shelter in local homes after being pulled shivering from the freezing sea.
“The idea is to exorcise a horrible episode, and to share the pain and drama of those who lost a loved one,” Ortelli said.
Locals gathered on the portside to meet survivors arriving from Italy’s mainland.
“Many survivors and relatives of victims have returned to thank us, and share their memories with us. Some, a year on, still send us e-mails,” he said.
The commemorations today are to include replacing where it once stood the rock that the ship crashed into and tore away. There is to be a mass in the church that served as a temporary refuge for survivors in the hours after the crash.
Father Lorenzo Pasquotti said he would display objects that survivors left behind — life jackets, emergency blankets, even discarded rolls of bread — next to the altar, underneath a Madonna statue salvaged from the ship’s chapel.
Flowers and candles line the aisles of the church, where extra pews have been squeezed in for survivors, salvage workers and government officials.
Later yesterday, US salvage company Titan was expected to provide details on the mammoth operation of righting and refloating the rusting 114,500 tonne ship.
The project — the biggest of its kind ever attempted — has been held up by a series of technical difficulties, exacerbated by rough seas.
Rebello said he hoped the ceremony would not be overshadowed by talk about the Concordia’s captain, Francesco Schettino.
Schettino, accused of causing the crash through reckless seamanship and then abandoning ship before all the passengers had been rescued, sparked controversy on Friday by saying that he was itching to captain a ship again.