Steve Garcia is a laid back kind of guy.
He doesn’t yell at bad drivers. He doesn’t get mad at loud jerks in a crowd. He won’t even complain about bad food at a restaurant. He likes to look on the bright side.
So when the Deerpark Middle School teacher recently watched online as the crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship was pulled upright on the coast of Italy, he didn’t see it as the vessel on which he could have died. He saw it as a reunion of sorts.
“I told someone that watching the Concordia raised was like Christmas, New Year’s, and Fourth of July rolled into one,” said Garcia, 51. “I actually laughed out loud when I saw it standing up. She was a beautiful ship before the incident, but knowing her history and the connection we have to her, she’s even more beautiful now … like a member of the family.”
Now he is calling on his optimism once again. More than a year-and-a-half after the Concordia capsized off the island of Giglio, Garcia is hoping his grandmother’s pink bead rosary can be retrieved from the broken ship.
“I would love to be able to hand the rosary back to my mom,” he said.
Garcia and his partner, Blake Miller, had never been on a cruise before Jan. 13, 2012. But to celebrate Garcia’s 50th birthday, the pair booked a seven-day Mediterranean cruise with stops in Rome, Barcelona and other cities.
Miller — a 48-year-old director of business travel at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel — wasn’t big on the idea of a cruise. But after about three hours on the ship, he started to warm up to the idea. The pair was at a bar, drinking mojitos, when they toasted to their trip.
Then the boat hit a rock.
“It was like ‘cheers,’ drink and boom,” Miller said. “It was literally like that.”
Memories of that night remain crystal clear for the couple: the listing boat, the screaming people, the lifeboat that took them to shore, the sight of passengers jumping off the ship and the Giglio residents who cared for the stranded travelers.
The crash killed 32 people and remains of two people were recently discovered on the ship. The boat is still in the water because it is a crime scene, but it was recently pulled upright in preparation for its ultimate removal. About half of the vessel never sunk.
Miller and Garcia’s cabin was among those that never hit the water. The family rosary was in a backpack in their room when they rushed to the lifeboats.
“The rosary was a delicate pink plastic one that my grandmother took to mass every day,” Garcia said. “My mom received it after Grandma passed away and asked that I have it blessed in Rome.”
Losing the family heirloom was hard. Garcia dreaded telling his mother than it was missing.
“When I finally broke the news to Mom that it was lost on the ship, she told me, ‘Well your grandmother loved the church so much, she would be very happy to know that it will always be in Italy,’” he said.
That answer gave him comfort. But Garcia, ever the optimist, is still hoping for the best.