What a spring break it was! Fifty students and adults from my high school toured Greece and Italy from March 25th through April 14th. Our journey back in time began in the city of Florence where we went on walking tours with our guide and visited ancient Italian Churches and the Gates of Paradise. We traveled next to the Sistine Chapel and visited the Colosseum and St.Peter’s Basilica. Seeing the lives of Moses and Jesus depicted on the walls of the Sistine Chapel was a breath-taking experience; no words can express the beauty of these scenes. Next we went on a walking tour of Rome and saw the Pantheon.
Our journeys next lead us to Sorrento and on a ferry cruise from Brindisi to Patras. From there we traveled to Delphi to see the Temple of Apollo. Seeing these ancient cities up close was an unreal experience.
No textbooks or photographs can truly depict the magnificence of these cities. On the tenth day of our excursion, we were to board a vessel known as the Sea Diamond for a cruise of the Aegean Sea. Shortly before embarking, we found that our group had been reassigned to a smaller ship.
We were disappointed. The Sea Diamond was much larger and offered more amenities. On the second day of our cruise we were on the cliff tops of mountains looking in the Aegean Sea, when we noticed that the 469-foot Sea Diamond appeared to be sinking.
Suddenly, panic struck this beautiful region. Our crew members were taking our lifeboats off our ship and heading for the Sea Diamond. We watched and listened as passengers frantically tried to climb down steep rope ladders, and the elderly were forced to slide down mattresses.
The sky was filled with aircrafts circling the vessel and the coast guard ships started coming to the rescue of the 1,600 passengers and crew members. It appeared that the Sea Diamond had struck volcanic rocks on Thursday, April 6th. We watched as the people were rescued.
My friend whispered, ‘That could have been us.’ I felt like someone had walked over my grave. This was the most eerie feeling of my life. We continued to watch as the Sea Diamond sank into the Aegean Sea just of the coast of Santorini.
That evening, some of the passengers that were on the Sea Diamond were taken aboard our ship. We listened to high school students from North Carolina; tell us about their real live nightmare. Several of the people had been in the spa of the vessel, which was in the bottom section. They said that when the ship hit the rocks that the hot tub exploded. They believe that was where the Frenchman and his 16 years old daughter were trapped and drowned.
We took pictures of the sinking of Sea Diamond but no photos are necessary to remember this horrific scene. Knowing how close we came to being on that ship and watching those people struggle to stay alive has shown me how quickly how lives can be over. I was worried about flying 10 hours over the ocean in a plane but had never been afraid of being on a cruise. This experience made me realize that any of us can be gone in an instant.
We traveled on to visit the landmarks of Athens like the Parthenon and the Acropolis. We toured the Temple of Olympian and the Olympic site. The city of Athens is truly beautiful and is an adventure back in time. But by this time, we were ready to come home and see our families.
Touring Greece and Italy was a once in a lifetime experience and I am very glad that I got the opportunity to see these spectacular historical cities. Still, when I think back on my trip, I remember seeing the Sea Diamond sink and that helplessness that I felt knowing that there was nothing that I personally could do to help these people but pray. My spring break experience and brush with death has given me a new respect for life. I now tell my family and friends daily that I love them and I try to show them that I care for them. It is strange that it took a trip half way around the world for me to learn that the people who mean the most to me in life are those people who are right around me at home.
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