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Costa Concordia cruise ship passengers told to stay away from anniversary event on Italian island

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 10:08 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images
Salvage operations continue on the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship on the coast of the Italian island of Giglio on Friday, Jan. 11. AFP | Getty Images

ROME — One can't stand being in a mall: It feels too much like the ship, with no visible exits. Another dreams she's walking on a tilt — a memory of having crawled up walls as the cruise liner rolled onto its side. A 4-year-old boy talks obsessively about the meal he had to leave behind when plates started to fly across the dining room.

As if the nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety were not enough, passengers who survived the capsizing of the Costa Concordia off Tuscany have come in for a rude shock as they mark the first anniversary of the disaster on Sunday: They've been told they are not welcome at the weekend's commemorations.

Ship owner Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., sent several passengers a letter telling them that they should not bother coming to the official anniversary ceremonies on the island of Giglio where the hulking ship still rests. Costa says the day is focused on the families of the 32 people who died Jan. 13, 2012, not the 4,200 passengers and crew who survived.

“We are sure that you will understand both the logistical impossibility of accommodating all of you on the island, as well as the desire for privacy expressed by the families at this sorrowful time,” Costa chief executive Michael Thamm wrote in the letter obtained by The Associated Press.

While some survivors said they understood that the families who lost loved ones deserved particular attention, many of those who are still struggling to get through each day said the letter added insult to their injuries — both physical and psychological.

Some speculated that the letter was more about keeping disgruntled passengers, many of whom have taken legal action against Costa, away from the TV cameras that have flooded the island for the anniversary.

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