Reporting Rachel Slavik
LAKEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — Two sisters from Lakeville arrived back home to Minnesota on Thursday after surviving last week’s cruise ship disaster off the coast of Italy.
Ronda Rosenthal and Vivian Shafer have very little to show for their cruise vacation near Italy. All their belongings fit into a small NBA bag.
But the few items they managed to hang on to serve as the tangible truth to an experience even they have a hard time believing.
“Unbelievable, bizarre, unreal,” said Vivian Shafer, who survived the Costa Concordia shipwreck.
The two sisters remember the first sign of trouble, hours after they boarded the ship to begin their trip.
“Then we heard the scraping sound and the shudder. You could feel a shudder,” said Shafer.
Shafer and Rosenthal were watching a magic show at the time, but went back to their rooms after hearing an announcement stating there was a small technical difficulty.
“Whatever he said was so calm, so, ok. Go to sleep,” said Shafer.
The sisters soon heard two more announcements that alerted them of trouble. They put on their life jackets and left the room without their belongings.
“I felt we were just going to have a drill, in case we had to be evacuated. We thought we were going to come back to the room,” said Rosenthal, who survived the shipwreck.
As they made their way to the deck, the 45 degree slant of the ship couldn’t be ignored.
“That was the one moment I felt fear. I looked around and saw all these people in this lifeboat and this whole lifeboat was full,” said Shafer.
The sisters soon found their passage to safety. They were the last two on their particular lifeboat.
“The people on the boat did not want us to get on. They were like ‘no more, full, no more.’ But we weren’t going to be separated,” said Shafer.
Rosenthal and Shafer spent a cold night on the island of Giglio. The people on the island were the ones who opened their homes and businesses to keep the 4,200 passengers warm and safe.
It was on dry land when they finally saw the wreckage. But it’s here in Minnesota where they realized the extent of the damage. Barb and Jerry Heil of White Bear Lake are still among the missing.
“When I think of the poor family in White Bear, and other people, it’s just disgusting that somebody would be so reckless,” said Shafer.
Shafer still faces another challenge because she left her identification on board. She’s stationed in Kabul and her temporary passport was only good to get her into the U.S., not back to another country.