Please Note: The following account of the Costa Concordia sinking is a fictional account created by collecting facts from numerous news accounts of the event. The author has filled in the gaps with fictional characters, comments and specific events. It is intended to portray the terror and the drama that unfolded, as passengers of the Concordia suffered through the tragedy.
“Well I absolutely loved it,” Jennifer said as she glared at her younger brother – a 10 year old with a small mop of red hair and narrow glasses that made him look far smarter than he actually was.
“Whatever – the show stunk,” Ely retored as he stuck his tongue out at his older sister. “B-O-R-I…”
Ely was interrupted by a jolt that sent dishes clinking on the table. A giant boom echoed through the ship. It sounded like a bomb had gone off far beneath the floor.
Don’t Worry – Everything is Under Control
Several dinner plates fell off tables and crashed to the floor. The lights dimmed and blinked out, came back on, then blinked back out and remained dark.
In the glow of the moon shining through the cruise ship dining room windows, Jennifer quickly looked from her mother to her father with wide eyes.
“What the hell…” her father said, as he glanced up at the lights and then around the dining hall at other passengers. Everyone was trying to find any crew member that could explain what was going on.
Jennifer leaned across the table and whispered to her mother, “We hit something.”
Jennifer’s mother, feigning calm – Jennifer could always tell when her mother was scared, even when she tried to hide it – just shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“Stop with the melodrama Jenny – it’s a big cruise ship. There’s nothing for them to hit. No Iceburgs. Okay?”
After about twenty minutes of shocked muttering and rumors spread throughout the dining hall, a crew member dressed in an officer’s uniform rushed into the dining hall, out of breath.
“Ladies and Gentleman,” the man started in English, heavily weighted with an Italian accent.
“Don’t worry. Don’t worry.”
A woman nearby walked up to him and frantically whispered something in his hear.
“No!” He shouted, before realizing that he had yelled. Then, more quietly, “No. We did not hit anything. There has been a significant electrical failure. We are working on it. Please stay calm – everything is under control.”
Crew members began walking through the dining hall, passing out orange life preservers.
“We are going to follow our standard safety procedures. Just take a safety preserver and keep it with you at all times. Just standard safety procedure. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Then, unbelievably, the man walked quickly out of the dining hall, leaving everyone staring at eachother in disbelief.
It was around 4:40pm on Friday night. Ironically, the evacuation drill had been scheduled for 5pm. There hadn’t been enough time, and now all hell was about to break loose.
The Sinking of the Costa Concordia
Within hours, the ship had started leaning subtly to one side. Everyone noticed it, and started asking the crew questions.
“The ship is sinking, how do we evacuate?”
Every crew member always seemed to be moving quickly off to one task or another, and never stopped long enough to provide a full answer, only a simple, “Don’t worry, everything is under control.”
Eventually, the ship had tilted to the point where there could be no arguing it – the ship was clearly sinking.
A contingent of passengers were congregating on the edge of the lopsided deck, pleading with a couple of crew members to drop the safety boats down to the water before it was too late.
Other passengers hunted for the Captain, to argue the case that evacuation had to be done early before time ran out.
Before long, time had already run out. The boats were already touching the water, but the entire hulk of the cruise ship was tilted above the boats. It would be impossible to get passengers onto the boats.
The boats on the other side of the ship could never be dropped to the water, because they were resting lopsided against the hull of the failing ship.
Terrified passengers started to jump from the sinking ship, in the hope that they could swim to shore and avoid drowning. Other passengers clung to the highest points of the decks they could find. One elderly man jumped into the icy waters, and immediately suffered from a heart attack.
By nightfall, rescue boats circled the sinking ship. Passengers scrambled down dark, tilted passageways with only flashing lights from the rescue vests to guide them. People fell against the walls – which were nearly almost the floor by this point. Chaos had ensued throughout the ship is passengers struggled to reach the decks where rescue crews were slowly arriving.
An Island Overwhelmed by Survivors
As the bulk of the passengers were pulled from the lopsided lower decks onto rescue boats, and plucked from upper decks from helicopters, the people living on the Island of Isola del Giglio watched the drama unfold from shore.
It was a sight that most had never seen before. The monster of a cruise ship leaning unbelievably to one side. The slow-motion death dive of a steel sea beast.
Gradually, rescue boats brought wave after wave of cold, wet and scared survivors to shore. Passengers congregated on the beach, unsure what to do or where to go. They waited for additional rescue boats to arrive, and consoled each wave of survivors that walked onto land.
Everyone had the same questions – what had happened and why did it happen? Was everyone okay? Was there anyone trapped on any of the lower floors, submerged under the water?
Residents from around the island made their way to the docks to console survivors. Many brought food and water. Most offered up their homes to individual families that had found themselves stranded on an Island they had never visted before.
As the night turned to morning and the Island residents opened up their homes and their hearts to the victims of the sunken cruiseliner, the rescue effort continued. There were already eight confirmed dead, and everyone expected there would be more as rescuers dove into the lower decks to look for survivors, or bodies.
Everyone had the same wish – the same hope – that most of the passengers had been at dinner; that no one was left below deck to get trapped by the rising seawater that had been racing through each deck of the ship.
An Island Changed by Survivors
At the Sunday Morning service in Giglio’s main church, Priest Don Lorenzo was visibly moved by what had happened. As he gazed out across the pews, filled with both Island residents and some of the cruise survivors, he shared his own thoughts about the tragedy, as his eyes brimmed with tears.
“Today, as we bring this offering to the altar,” he started, as a line of young altar boys walked solemnly down the aisle, carrying symbols of the rescue efforts – a life vest, a rope, a rescue helmet, a plastic tarp and bread.
“We realize that sometimes some events happen that are unexplainable. Sometimes tragedies remind us of the fragile nature of our lives. Each of these objects will help us to remember just what occurred here at this Island on Friday – how the bread of the community multiplied to feed hungry survivors, the rope that pulled so many to safety, the life vest and the helmet that protected them, and the tarp that kept them warm.”
Lorenzo could barely contain his emotion as he looked from face to face within the gathered community. There wasn’t a dry eye anywhere to be found.
“…on Friday, this Island was faced with one of the worst tragedies we have seen in a very long time. We were faced with survivors from across the world, who were each in need. This event is one that we will never forget. It has affected us in ways that are impossible to describe in words. Our community…our island…will never be the same.”