It's painful to think about the events that happened today. Excuse me as I stick to short sentences claiming the facts. It's impossible to analyse it all. I can't even begin to try.
We had the day off from Moria so we headed up north to the ace where boats usually arrive. It's 50km north of Mytilini.
We arrive and go to a local coffee shop to and relax outside sitting at the table doing some casual talk. Then we see someone running towards the beach. We follow through.
As they come closer we see it's actually two boats. Volunteers pile in. Photographers are everywhere. Boats arrive and everyone grabs a refugee and hugs them with a blanket. There's a lot of crying. A lot of praying. We head to the first camp and give them a hot drink.
I see a guy completely wet and shivering while he tried to comfort his son. I offer to take care of the little one while the dad could go and change clothes. Re boy doesn't stop crying. I hug him and cry with him. It was all so fast. We barely had time to arrive to this place!
We hear there's people missing that fell of the boat and bodies washing ashore. We don't even know what to think, do or how to react.
Next minute everyone is put in a van and they are off to the next camp, where they will get a bus to Moria. See you tomorrow people!
We then take time to see where we are. I actually have some nice stories from the time there were no boats arriving. I will leave it for another post.
Then we see another boat. It was heading much further than where we were.
Someone tells us there's another team there and we relax and watch. But as the boat comes closer, we see people rushing to their cars and driving in its direction. We get a lift and go too. The boat was heading to a bad location with no safe landing area. Everyone struggles to find the boat as it's an area with cliffs and trees. Someone finally does and says everything is ok and the boat is safe. We breathe and go for lunch.
On our way back from lunch we were doing a slow walk along the beach. I tell Jack that I saw an orange dot in the distance. He tries to see it to but can't. We keep walking and I see it again. He tried too but it was gone when he looked. We head back to camp and I see a lot of pointing and binoculars again. I must have been right. I ask what's happening. There's definitely a boat but it's not moving. We move to higher ground with binoculars. There's a rubber boat stopped at sea. The sun is going down and it will be dark soon. What do we do? Panic and fear all over us. We wait and see if they start moving. Nothing. Then the sun sets. And we start seeing lights inside he boat. They are signalling. They need help. Someone calls the coast guard. But what happens in the meanwhile ? Someone calls the fishermen. 30 seconds after there's a boat leaving to go and help them. It was a tiny boat. We would look to the rubber boat through the binoculars and then to re fishing boat and then back again, hoping the distance could go shorter by magic. Then there's a helicopter. Then another fishing boat. We just sit and pray that they all get there in time and that when they get there it will all be ok. When the fishing boats get to the rubber boat we run down the mount and head to the harbour , where they would be brough to.
There was a briefing for the volunteers. No families should be separated is rule number one. We all get ready with blankets. And then when the boat is near, a wall of journalists blocks our way and the refugees couldn't even come out of the boat. A lot of shouting went on an eventually they moved a bit.
People came out and we hugged them. A lot of crying. A lot of praying. A lot of hugging. Jack went around going handshakes and "welcome friend. You're safe now.".
We get the people to the camp. we offer tea and sandwiches. I see a guy alone trying to wrap in a blanket and shivering as the wind blew it. I hug him and tuck the blanket around him. He starts crying. I hold his face and say "it's ok. You're safe". He cries even more. I hug him and we cry together. He asks for a cigarette. I search for one and get it. Then I get him a tea. Jack seats with us and we talk to him to get him to calm down. We ask if he has called his family yet and he says no because he has no battery. Neither do I. So another volunteer offers a phone so he can call. In the meanwhile some of his friends sit around us and we all listen as he makes the call. Everyone is so happy. He hangs up the phone after speaking to his family and we all introduce ourselves. They were 6 guys from Afghanistan between the ages of 18 and 22. One of them spoke English very well and told us his version of the events that unfolded just a few hours before.
"We have been hiding in the forest in Turkey for the last 3 days. This morning the smugglers sent a boat with people and a few meters off the coast the boat sank. The people fell of the boat and we don't know what happened to them. Then it was our turn. The engine stopped a while after we left Turkey and it didn't start. We were drifting for over 5h before someone came and got us. We called the Turkish coast guard and they told us "go to hell!". We called the fishermen that were passing by and they refused to help us. We finally signalled with our phones hoping someone would see us. And you did. Thank you"
We shared hugs, stories and photos from our home countries. I showed them my hometown and the beach and they showed me photos of people that had been shot in the head or bombed. They told us they flew Afghanistan over a month ago. We gave them all the tips we have for Europe and for continuing their journey. I hope to see them in Moria tomorrow. Or not! That would mean they are on their way to Athens.
I don't know how to feel about the fact that I'm friends with the people that 2h before I was watching over binoculars and was praying for to be safe and sound without even knowing them.
We took a picture together before we left. Me and my new friends. We said goodbye while talking about dreams of all of us meeting in London and living a great and happy life.
I guess to some people seeing babies and families arriving strikes a cord. To me, was seeing someone my age having to go through this. I wish it upon no one.
I want to remember what I looked like on this day. It's one I want to remember forever.