20 Years Since Estonia Tragedy, a Nation Remembers ({{commentsTotal}})


The ferry Estonia sank during the first hours of September 28, 1994, taking 852 lives with it. Those who did not survive were remembered in a church service and concert, which began at 19:00 pn Saturday and ran until 1:30 early on Sunday, exactly 20 years after the ferry sank.

"It is a diverse concert, aimed to reconcile, overcome grief and move on with life,“ Märt Raudsepp, head of Memento Mare, a organization set up to remember the victims of the Estonia ferry.

The concert producer, Lehari Kaustel, said the passage of time had not eased all of the shock.

"Twenty years is a long time. It is a period where many will still find the reality of the events of that night hard to come to terms with,“ Kaustel said, adding that a whole generation has grown up since the tragedy and Saturday night's concert is aimed at freeing people from grief.

The ferry, carrying 989 people, set off on the Tallinn-Stockholm route at 19:15 on September 27, 1994.

The ship sent out distress calls at 1:22 in the night, after beginning to take in water from the bow door in high seas.

The first ship to arrive at the scene did so at 2:12 and around half the people who managed to leave the ship were rescued alive, most dying from hypothermia. There were 138 survivors, one of whom died later in the hospital.

The official investigation found that the cause was a structural failure of the locks on the bow door. The report was critical of the crew's actions as well, once sharp blows were heard and the ship began listing at an angle from which it would not recover.

Few Estonians had no relatives or friends on the boat. Estonian singer Urmas Alender was perhaps the best known victim.

"I remember the sun was out and it was cool weather. We spent half the day a the port, waiting for news, the general mood was one of shock and panic. I have memory lapses from the second half of the day,“ Yoko Alender, the daughter of Urmas, told Eesti Päevaleht.

Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi lost a brother. "He lived his life in the fast lane, which in hindsight could have pointed towards a tragic ending,“ Ligi told Delfi. Ligi said the ferry was not just a ship, but a huge window into prosperity and a better future for Estonia at a time of crisis.

The city of Võru was especially hard hit - a delegation of city officials was aboard the ship.

Several promising young triathletes who had just started their career in 1994 also died - Jaan Pehk and Kristjan Raiend. Raiend had started training only 18 months previously and finished 24th in the world in an Australian tournament in the summer. A teammate, Ain-Alar Juhanson, 18, survived and went on to be Estonia's most successful triathlete.

Although per population, Estonia was hardest hit, the greatest number of victims were Swedes - over 500 Swedes died to 285 Estonians killed.

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