(ANSAmed) – LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO) – Luam says returning to Lampedusa is incredibly painful but an obligation to those fellow travelers who ended up at the bottom of the sea.
Domenico Colapinto, a fisherman, lives instead in Pantelleria, far from the island that gives him devastating memories. On October 3 last year, Colapinto saved dozens of migrants.
But he couldn’t save others. They slipped out of his hands because their bodies were full of diesel oil. He saw them drown right before his eyes without being able to do anything.
The victims on Ocober 3 were 376. Doctor Pietro Bartolo, who has visited and treated thousands of migrants, dead and alive, still gets emotional when he remembers how he saved Kebrat’s life.
”She was surrounded by bodies”, the physician remembers.
”If I had not noticed her feeble heartbeat she would have ended up in a plastic bag with the others”.
Lampedusa commemorates today its saddest day of all and does it with a restless sprit. There is pain for a tragedy that unanimously devastated the island and all those who rushed to the sea that day to save human lives. But there is also rage as some residents who have created an association with local hoteliers see the re-opening of the local migrant holding center, scheduled over the next few days after renovation work worth 3.7 million euros, as the beginning of the end.
All locals are restless because some memories are here to stay and anniversaries deepen the pain. ”You never get used to death, those who say that lie”, said Bartolo. ”Each time, the pain is immense, there is nothing to be done and nothing more to say. I have cried dozens of times in front of those devastated bodies”.
Yet some stories provide a glimmer of hope amid the desperation. Like the tale of Kebrat, an Eritrean girl who was on that boat and now lives in Sweden. ”When they rescued her from the sea she looked dead, so she ended up on a boat with the other bodies”, said Bartolo. ”When we reached the port, I felt the pulse and realized there was a very weak heartbeat. I screamed like a madman, ‘she is alive, she is alive’, so we took her away. Her lungs were full of water and gasoline, but we made it. It was a miracle”.
Fanus was the last of the 155 survivors to leave the island, three months later. She now lives in Sweden. ”I study and attend a professional training course. I remember everything from that night but so wish I could forget”.
Rezeni is also in Sweden and dreams of becoming a mechanic.
”I want to make a life for myself, I want to live”, he says.
The families of all those who didn’t make it are also in Lampedusa. ”Every time you ask us about that night, our wound starts to bleed again”, says a girl who lost a cousin, together with a young man whose brother died off Lampedusa. ”But for the first time, in the meeting with Pope Francis, someone understood our sadness”.
The pain is written all over their faces as they attend an inter-religious ceremony at the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Porto Salvo. This is a special place for Lampedusa. It is here that, for centuries, food was left for sailors in transit.