Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Open Water. Terror at Sea: The Dominicans Speak

By now I'm sure you've heard the story about the failed voyage of the would be emigrants from the Dominican Republic. 55 people died, most from kidney failure from extreme dehydration. The story is incredibly compelling, and, I'm sure, this will ultimately be made into a movie, or, at least a television drama. How could it not? The image of a mutinous sea, the point at which civilization breaks down and man becomes what he is, in essence, before being civilized -- a carnivorous mammal.

The August 30, 2004 People Magazine -- and, buy this please if you haven't already -- has some excerpts of the survivors in a piece called "Terror at Sea." Dominicans are a very frank people, as you will know if you have ever eavsedropped on some of their conversations at the bodega. And their frankness gives vivid color to their nightmarish journey:

Reports differ, but according to some accounts, a small group did resort to feeding upon the bodies of others.

Mercedes: Two women and four men began eating the ears of the dead. They had a knife and they were eating ears like they were popcorn.

Peralta: One man ate two ears. The two women, who were about 34 or 38, just drank blood. The captain told them not to do that again. You have to respect the dead.

Santana:One group was biting each other -- biting live people. They were puncturing the skin with their teeth to make them bleed. I was terrified.

Mercedes: I was resting. In my underwear. Then a woman grabbed me and bit me.

Peralta: Nolberto was yelling to me, 'Alex, they're biting me!' I kicked the woman away. Another time, the woman began biting one of the women who was lactating. I could hear her crying out, 'Leave me alone. Don't bite me!' She was about 17. She died.

Mercedes: When they finally left her alone, her skin was purple with bruises and bite marks. Not just her nipples. Everywhere. Her face, her nose, on the neck, on the chest. It was unbelievable.

Santana: As the days passed, I got so hungry and thirsty. I wasn't thinking of my favorite foods ... I was thinking of grape soda.

deJesus: The days were long, but I just kept thinking about my family. We didn't do anything to keep each other alive. Sometimes the men would take turns using the boards to row. It was so hot. People started hallucinating. Some said they saw a supermarket on the water. They left the boat. Just dove into the water. We never saw them again.

Day 13-- August 10-- Navy Lieutenant Jesus Uloa and fisherman Pedro Paulino --on a motor boat -- rescue the survivors

Paulino: It was like (we) were seeing God. The women were crying like hell. They yelled out, 'Are you a mirage'?

deJesus: We saw the boat and waved out T-shirts. I knew it wasn't like when the others saw the supermarket on the water.

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