Lampedusa Marks Decade Since Maritime Catastrophe in Solemn Tribute


Each year, countless individuals embark on a solemn pilgrimage to Lampedusa, an event held to commemorate and honor their fallen friends and kin, tragic victims of a maritime catastrophe.

The most recent gathering unfolded as a poignant tribute. It marked the passing of a full decade since the heart-rending loss of 368 migrants, whose ship tragically met its end in an inferno at sea. The majority of those who lost their lives in this dreadful incident hailed from Eritrea, forever marking this horrific episode as one of the most devastating calamities to befall migrants venturing from Libya to Europe.

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The Lampedusa Coastguard, in a gesture of profound respect, arranged a unique expedition to the disaster’s location for survivors and grieving relatives. Amidst the haunting echo of horns and sirens, they journeyed, collectively offering their solemn tribute to the departed.

“Their bodies never found a final resting place,” lamented Solomon Assefa, an Eritrean who numbers among the tragedy’s 150 survivors. “Our friends’ families remain in a perpetual state of mourning – they had no opportunity to perform our customary funeral rites. That is the compelling reason we undertake this annual pilgrimage to Lampedusa, where we can at least extend our prayers.”

The day marked by these painful memories commenced with a somber candlelit vigil at 03:00 – the exact hour when the ill-fated ship, weighed down by over 500 hopeful souls seeking a new life, began its fateful descent beneath the waves.

The catastrophe unfolded terrifyingly close to the Italian island’s shoreline. A fire consumed the vessel, causing a desperate scramble for survival as passengers flung themselves into the merciless sea.

Among the attendants of this commemoration was Alex, who expressed his gratitude for his survival, making it a yearly commitment to honor the memory of his lost comrades every October. For some survivors and relatives, this year marked their first journey back to the site of their heartrending loss since the disaster unfolded.

Kokob Dawit, who tragically lost her mother and two brothers in the calamity, revealed that she made the journey to feel a closeness to her lost family. She confessed her struggle to articulate her anguish, swathes of unutterable grief clutching at her words.

Each individual present, in their shared sorrow and reminiscence, underlines a story of irreplaceable loss.

Amanuel Mekonnen sought solace in the communal memory, hoping to find a semblance of tranquility by remembering his brother, sister-in-law, and niece who were claimed by the calamity.

Joining them in their tender commemoration were Italians involved in the initial rescue efforts and supportive students, their shared humanity etching an indelible mark on this day of mutual grieving and collective memory.