The 8th departure: Moving forward to save more lives
After four days of stopover in Sicily, the Aquarius has set off on Tuesday 26 July to start the 8th three weeks rotation. Aboard are 31 persons from 14 different nationalities: marine crew, rescuers, medical team and journalists. While the sailors get ready to lift the bridge before departure, the entire team gathers spontaneously on the back deck: they wave and throw jokes to bid farewell to those who stayed on shore, like the Dr. Erna from MSF who has been on-board for twelve weeks and has shared with us the best, the birth of little Destiné Alex, as the worst, the 22 persons found dead at the bottom of a rubber boat by the Search and Rescue team (SAR) on 20 July.
For those like Mathias, James, Bertrand and Tom who have taken part in this tragic rescue and have been through these painful moments, it is time to move forward to exorcise these still too present images. They have taken advantage of the four days ashore to get a psychological debriefing, to rest and unwind. This regenerating break has also given them the opportunity to meet the newcomers from the SAR team: Ani, Luis, Sebastian and Baptiste come from Spain, Germany and France. They are rescuer, paramedics and seaman. They are between 21 and 31 years old, and real team cohesion could be felt between them and the “old ones” from the first days spent ashore. “We have similar characters and I’m looking forward to working with them” says Tom who is only 19 years old and has already participated in four rescues. “Of course I felt the need to share with them the experience of this tragic rescue, and they also felt the need to talk about it with us” says Bertrand as he looks away into the distance when he recalls the images of the body bags that he carried with some colleagues during disembarkation. But he knows he can count on the team’s support. “After the rescue, we all took care of each other. Each one asked the others: are you ok? Are you sure you are ok?” And even if they weren’t here to share this experience, the “new ones” are feeling very involved. “Sebastian assured me that he would stand by us”, says Bertrand.
As soon as the port of Trapani vanishes in the horizon, a small memorial marks the start of this new departure. Gathered in circle on the front deck of the ship, at the very place where the bodies of 21 women and one man were resting a few days ago, the teams of SOS Méditerranée and MSF, as well as the seamen and journalists pay a silent last tribute to those who once dreamt of a better future but will never see Europe.
Meanwhile, the Aquarius continues towards the Search and Rescue zone. More than ever, we need to be there to save more lives.
Text: Nagham Awada
Photos: Anna Psaroudakis / Isabelle Serro