“It’s like a dream, lived and past, but always inside me”

“It’s like a dream, lived and past, but always inside me”
“It’s like a dream, lived and past, but always inside me”

Where were you at the time of the tragedy?

“I was on break and I was on the fifth deck with three or four other musicians. At 9.45 pm, we heard a loud bang. In my life I had never heard one like it. A sound of iron, of steel. Terrible. We thought. to an engine failure. We were amazed, we didn’t know what to do. After a while the light went out – or rather it came and went – and the emergency light came on “.

How did you react?

“We moved to the central hall, also on the fifth deck. In the meantime, panic spread, people were screaming, asking what had happened but no one knew”.

When did the communications arrive?

“After about ten minutes, through the loudspeaker, we were told that there had been a blackout. ‘You have to stay calm, we are solving’, they told us. As we walked, we noticed that the floor was no longer ‘straight’, the ship was beginning to tilt.After about forty minutes, we heard seven short and one long whistles, which indicate emergency. We went to the meeting point established in these cases, on the third floor, in the emerged area. We got in line. There the roll call was made and we were stopped for about 15 minutes. We were holding hands because the ship was leaning on the other side. We still didn’t know we were at Giglio “.

And then?

“We could not get on our lifeboats, those of the crew, because there was chaos, panic. Below, on the fourth deck, I saw the passengers getting on the boats. ship was leaning towards the other side. Then, a non-commissioned officer told us to go to the other side so it would be easier to get free. Then, always taken by the hand – we were about a hundred people – we crossed the whole ship in width (35 meters) A moment that particularly impressed me for the solidarity and love we showed for each other. When we arrived on the other side, we saw the lights of the harbor. We saw the water enter. We hugged each other so as not to slip. We did not know what to do. We were looking for lifeboats, many musicians were saved by climbing into those for passengers, which for us, however, were forbidden. At one point, we then heard another very loud noise of steel, of iron, a jolt: the ship folded even more. At that point, many climbed over the balcony and jumped into the sea. The rock in front was about 200 meters “.

How did you save yourself?

“I also jumped into the sea (from a height of about five meters). While I was swimming, I saw a raft, but I could not go up. The sea was not calm, but not even moved, there was the light of the moon. I said to myself: ‘I have to reach the rock and save myself. I have to stay calm and swim slowly’. I came up with several tunes that I had played in the hall that same night, including the Rhapsody In Blue by Gershwin. Crazy. I swam for about 15-20 minutes. Every now and then I turned in disbelief to look at that huge ship lying on the sea. When I reached the rock – where I tore my pants to climb – I found other people. We hugged to warm up. Then some inhabitants of Giglio arrived. With the flashlights they led us to a path and then ‘sorted’ to school, church and a small hotel. I happened upon the latter. We didn’t sleep at all. We were all amazed. The next day, Costa Cruises took us on a ferry to Grosseto, we spent two days in a hotel and then returned home “.

Was there a time when you thought about dying?

“Never. Even when the lifeboat did not arrive, I was convinced that I could save myself. While I was swimming I was afraid of not making it for lack of breath, but I did not give up. I kept my composure.”

Did the Titanic come to your mind in those moments?

“Absolutely not. I was just thinking about saving myself and wondering what had happened.”

Then when did he know how it went, how did he take it?

“I thought: ‘This can’t happen, how is it possible in 2012?’ I was shocked. “

And what did you think of Schettino?

“The fact of getting off the ship before the passengers is not right. It was not supposed to happen.”

How soon did you work on a ship again? He was scared?

“Since 2000, that is, since I started working on ships, every year, during the winter period, I spent three months on board. After the Concordia, I stopped for three years, even if not out of fear. Then, in 2015, I embarked again on the Costa Fascinosa “.

What did it feel like when he went up?

“Of rebirth”.

Among other things, in 2015, you also “survived” another tragedy, the one at the Bardo museum in Tunis …

“Yes. I was at the port of Tunis with other musicians when we found out that terrorists were shooting at the museum. We went back to the ship immediately. There was no recreational activity on board for two days. It was bad times. I was reminded of the period of pain and mourning of the Concordia. Some even canceled the cruise. “

How much did the tragedy of Concordia weigh and still weigh in your life?

“It’s like a dream, a movie, lived, past, but always alive inside of me. It gave me the opportunity to appreciate life even more. Initially, the thought was constant. Now, every now and then it comes to mind, but with the awareness of having made it “.

What is your life like ten years later?

“Even richer than before. I stopped playing on ships six years ago. Now I work in Sicily. During the lockdown, I also created my own cd (‘Waves’)”.

Antonello Tonna and Justine Pelmelay one hour before the tragedy



Speaking of music, let’s talk about the meeting with the surviving passenger Justine Pelmelay, with whom he composed a song about Concord.

“On January 13, 2012, a Dutch passenger, Justine, stopped me and asked me to make her sing some songs. So, that evening, around 8.30 pm, I gave her the microphone. Before she went to dinner, at 9 pm, I left her the my business card and I told her to come back later to sing again. Then the shipwreck and I didn’t know anything about Justine. After a couple of days, she called me, telling me that she was in Holland and that she had saved herself by getting on a I burst into tears. He then sent me a piece about Concord that he had composed in Dutch, inviting me to write one in Italian. I entrusted the text to my daughter. Later, I went to Holland and we recorded “Time has stopped”, which has become a bit like the symbolic song of Concord “.

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