CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – “When people ask us, how are you? I say we are alive, but we’re not OK yet,” says Benji Smith, a survivor of the Costa Concordia disaster.
Smith and his wife, Emily Lau, were passengers on the ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy. Amidst the chaos of that night, they found the only way off the ship was to climb down rope ladders.
“It was very scary,” says Smith. “The water was rough, and the life boat was banging against the hull. We waited on the rope for two hours, then finally had to jump.”
WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reports
But getting off the ship was only half the ordeal. Once on land, they found little support from Italian authorities, the ship company, or even the American Embassy.
“We have no money, we don’t have warm clothes, we’re really scared, we need your help,” Emily Lau told the embassy. The embassy told the couple to borrow money and take a cab.
They made it to the embassy, and got temporary passports, but nothing more, not even documents stating what they had been through. “I told them, I’m not leaving this country until you give me a document, that says that this happened, and that it happened to us and that we have suffered a loss,” said Smith.
Emily says the only help they got was during the first night, when they stumbled into a small inn on the island of Giglio. “The innkeeper opened his pantry to us, and his wine. He gave us blankets, and when we tried to give him what little money we had, he refused, saying ‘It is my job’,” says Emily.
“And that is the first person that said it’s my job, when everybody else was saying it’s not my job, including the embassy and the (cruise) company.”
“And the captain,” added Benji.