• Fri. Jan 28th, 2022

Fire brigade team: ‘You live by a miracle but we have not abandoned Concordia’


Jan 13, 2022

” ‘For now everything is fine’ I think as I get off the stern shackle. At the moment. We do not know if there are missing on board or if there are any at sea. But I believe that it is a miracle not to have sunk in, a grace of God that Concord is still here. I look at my men. It is an honor to have seen them work. It’s a relief that everyone is fine. But last night I was scared. I know them and I know their families, it was not easy not to stop the operations while I felt the metallic rubbing of the ship on the seabed, knowing that it was going towards the depths with us inside. We stayed here. Nine of us got on and nine of us got out alive. The firefighters did not abandon the ship. ” This is the story, at the end of the mission, of Ennio Aquilino, commander of the team of eight firefighters who boarded the Costa Concordia while taking water in front of the Giglio to save the castaways still on board, contained in the book ‘Apnea’ by Luca Cari, responsible for emergency communication of the National Fire Brigade, and Virginia Piccolillo, journalist of the ‘Corriere della Sera’, published by Mondadori. It is the voices of the firemen, who in the text are indicated by their nicknames (Albi, Andre, Bartolo, Beppe, Bronco, Lallo, Massi and Trap) that retrace those very hard and interminable moments. Among the many rescues Bartolo recounts that of three castaways, ” a handicapped lady, an elderly and rather chubby lady ” and Elena, a crew member. ” I have to figure out how to get them upstairs – he says – I find the system as a firefighter, that is, arranging myself. Not far away I see a metal gate. One of those in the gardens. I unhinge it, turn it around so that the grid forms pegs and tie it to a rope. I’ll get the first lady up. ” A self-made save. ” I’m still alone – Bartolo recalls – I don’t see the others. One thing that takes my breath away. ” But as Bartolo is about to rescue the last of the group, he looks up and sees his companions. ” First Bronco, then Lallo, Beppe. Here they are – he says – I am no longer alone. I feel heartened by their presence. They help me in the last stretch up to the bulwark. But it is not only this, their help is also psychological. We are few but we are a team ”. ” The ship is moving – according to Trap – After almost completely capsizing, it found the bottom that slopes down. And now it’s sliding over it, moving towards the seventy-meter chasm beyond. That it will take us to the bottom with her is a certainty. I hear the shots he makes accompanied by noises of sheet metal and jolts that knock me to the ground. He moves and is keen to let me know. Maybe he’s warning me to escape. No. He just wants to scare me. He can. But I have these two guys in front of my eyes and I avoid thinking about them. I have to take care of them. Without wasting time ”. ” There are still people shouting downstairs – the commander remembers – A lot. Too much to handle for a complex evacuation like this one. Panic reigns, everyone seeks salvation and as soon as they see us they demand it in unison. But we are few. Concord is as big as a city. We move in a hostile and unknown environment, where it would be easy to get lost even in normal conditions and with the light. Even so, you would never find the bar or the massage room or the cinema without asking or following the directions on the signs. And now that everything is upside down it is impossible to orient yourself. But how do you empty a cruise ship without having a map? ” a group of castaways. They stand next to each other. Piled up I do not know if for the cold or to be brave. ‘We are firefighters!’ I yell at them to reassure them. It usually works. Our presence is a panacea for those in danger. But this time nothing. I miss a breath. Not even a move. They are dazed, it almost seems that they are in a trance. The jolt of the ship sliding to the bottom gives me a wake up call. You can’t go for the subtle here. “Force!” I scream with all the breath in my lungs. And I hear others doing the same too. The ship gives another jolt. Stronger than before. Accompanied by the sound of sheet metal crumpling and glass breaking. We stop. We look at each other for a moment. Go on. But the feeling is that we are sinking. I hug two of the women around me and start with them. There is no time to lose”. ” I keep the level of fear constant and under control – Trap continues in another passage of the book – Not too much to stop me, not too little to make me reckless. Anyway I have it. The others too. After the Com I am the highest in rank and my colleagues one by one come to me and say: ‘We are going to the bottom’. ‘Did you notice that you can’t get out of here? What’s now?’ Yes: what do you do? It’s a one-answer question. Harassing. Because as long as there are people asking for help, it goes on. But there is a lot of it. Too much. We have to get it out. Soon. I keep the fear at a safe level and go on ”. ” They are stuck in the bottom of the cabin – it is an excerpt from Lallo’s story – The usual well. They remind me of the time we recovered a hunting dog from a deep ravine. He had fallen in and couldn’t get out. His eyes were full of fear. The same that I see now in these two gentlemen. I light them up and recognize it. It is that of the trapped animal aware that it is about to die. He feels it by instinct. ” And finally, after having brought his wife and husband to safety, Lallo remembers: “ On the bridge I understand that this rescue is also done and I let an animal scream like that dog did when I pulled it out. My instincts took over reason. But not entirely: the scream remained inside me, no one heard it. Yet it was strong. ”

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