Survivors of the Costa Concordia shipwreck and relatives of the 32 people who died have marked the first anniversary of the grounding with the unveiling of memorials to the victims, a Mass in their honour and a minute of silence to recall the exact moment that the cruise ship rammed into a reef off Tuscany.
The first event of the day-long commemoration was the return to the sea of part of the massive rock that tore a 230ft gash into the hull of the ocean liner on January 13, 2012. The boulder remained embedded in the mangled steel as the 112,000 ton vessel capsized along with its 4,200 passengers and crew.
As fog horns wailed, a crane on a tug lowered the boulder onto the reef off Giglio, returning it to where it belongs and affixed with a memorial plaque. Relatives of the dead threw flowers into the sea and embraced as they watched the ceremony from a special ferry that bobbed in the waves under a slate gray sky.
A land-based memorial was being unveiled after a Mass and ceremony honouring rescue crews. A minute of silence was scheduled for later, the exact moment when the Concordia slammed into the reef after the captain took the ship off course in a stunt to bring it closer to Giglio.
The captain, Francesco Schettino, is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He has not been charged but is living under court-ordered restrictions pending a decision on whether to indict him. Schettino maintains he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to shore rather than letting it sink in the open sea, and claims the reef he hit wasn't on his nautical charts.
Taking part in the anniversary commemoration is Captain Gregorio De Falco of the Italian coast guard, who became something of a hero to survivors after his recorded conversations with Schettino during the evacuation were made public. In the conversations, De Falco excoriated Schettino for having abandoned the ship before all passengers were off and ordered him to return, shouting the now-infamous order "Go on board (expletive)!"
Captain De Falco said he wanted to go to Giglio to "embrace the victims, and the relatives of the victims". De Falco, who has shied from all media attention since the disaster, said he did so out of respect for the victims.
"I don't want notoriety for this tragedy," he told RAI state television.
Also on hand was Kevin Rebello, brother of Costa waiter Russel Rebello, one of the two victims whose bodies were never recovered. Kevin Rebello spent weeks on Giglio in the aftermath of the disaster awaiting word of the fate of his brother and said he couldn't sleep ahead of today's anniversary.
"I have been constantly thinking it is going to be again the same agony, even tonight, because it is going to be the same exact moment when all this happened," he said. "So my heart is beating a bit faster I guess."