Life and Death Play Out on the Same Stage

Life and death play out on the same stage today.

It’s raining, it’s cold and there have been terrible storms at sea. Tragically 34 were lost leaving Turkey today, including children who will never have a chance to grow up. Yet we rescue more than 250…

Life and Death, Rescue of Refugees, 6 January 2016, Lesvos, by Ben Gow

Life and death play out on the same stage

today.

By Benjamin Gow

It’s raining, it’s cold and there have been terrible storms at sea. Tragically 34 were lost leaving Turkey today, including children who will never have a chance to grow up. They are still out searching, there are reports that 50 left the shores on two boats… As that news filled up our Facebook feeds and sat in the gaps in our conversations, we saw a boat coming in from where we are working on that secret reception centre project. A big boat, filled to the brim, with more than 250 people on it heading towards a beach called Lighthouse 1, where the Greek volunteer group Lifeguard Hellas have a tent on the sand, light a campfire signal and keep watch 24/7.

We were watching from our vantage too and ran down to the beach, suddenly in full “first response” mode again. Right in front of our eyes we watched the boat swerve toward the landing point, rocking back and forth, and the clouds opened up and it began to rain.

And it kept raining, heavier and heavier.

Yet, it was so good to be standing ready and waiting on the shore with open arms, organised as we have trained, confident in what we are doing now and smiling.

The boat stopped far out from shore. Because its keel was deep and ran aground. There are no piers or jetties to draw up on, or walkways to get to shore. Those with wetsuits got into the water and the rest of us stood along the beach, forming our two lines of support. There were children on board, so we passed them along the line first, lifting them high to keep their legs out of the water, next the women, followed by the men.

The waves kept lifting and carrying the boat along the shoreline a little with each swell, and our two line system had to keep shuffling down the beach, throwing debris and driftwood aside to make space.

As the last of the people where brought to shore safely, each and every one of them, then their precious luggage of all shapes and sizes was finally passed down the line and returned to their owners. Those volunteers who had dry clothes helped change the cold and the wet, and others gathered up life jackets and cleaned the beach, and that’s our day.

There was one man who made my day, who I shall remember going to sleep tonight. He thanked everyone, and shook all our hands, as he was carried all the way to the beach. Smiling all the way. He made us all smile.

Under the circumstances, it could not have gone smoother. So congratulations to the refugees for staying calm, and letting us help. Congratulations to those volunteers at Lighthouse, we helped make more than 250 lives just that little bit safer today. When life and death play out on the same stage on a day like today it shows it’s so crucial that we are here.

This is it, you really feel it, out here on the beach you know you are the frontline of the European humanitarian response. And you reading this are part of it too, you really are, thank you for all your support…

read more by Ben Gow on Tuesday, 5 January 2016

One thought on “Life and Death Play Out on the Same Stage

  1. A very emotional and evocative piece of reporting by Benjamin Gow. Congratulations to him and thank you Ben for what you are doing on our behalf. You, and all the volunteers from all around the world restore my faith in human nature.

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