Hellenism is in mourning. It mourns the loss and pain of dozens of our compatriots, many of whom are young men and women.
But it is also mourning the fact that such a seemingly preventable and terrible accident happened in Greece.
Not that accidents do not happen elsewhere – for example in the U.S. However, we are almost unbearably saddened by this tragedy because of its scale, because of the more positive image of the country we worked so hard to create in recent years, and because we did not expect something like this to happen.
We, who have not been directly affected by the tragedy, will sooner or later turn our attention to other issues of everyday life. That is human nature.
Those who pay with the most precious commodity, life, for the miserable state of the railways, are the dead. The price is also paid by their families, and the injured. For them, nothing today, tomorrow or forever will be the same as it was yesterday.
But probably not for Greece either, for a long time to come. It will be haunted by the ‘why?’.
The wound that the tragedy has opened in the soul and also the body politic of the country and the nation will take a long time – years perhaps – to heal.
There will be a lot of turmoil, in many areas, social and political.
This tragedy will be etched in our collective memory as the worst rail accident since 1968, when 34 people were killed.
And, of course, as is always the case, the political exploitation of the tragedy will begin, if it has not already begun. As if Mitsotakis and Karamanlis were personally to blame – the latter’s sensitivity and dignity in his resignation statement is remarkable.
Of all that has been said so far, I distinguish two statements as the most substantial, the most constructive, the most encouraging.
One is by Mitsotakis and the other by Karamanlis.
The former said: “… we will do everything in our power to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
And that is the bottom line. Once the accident has been investigated, once responsibility – if any – has been apportioned, an ethical line must be drawn obligating the state, and a plan must be drawn up for the real modernization of the Greek railways.
Everything must be done – everything that is within the reach of the political authorities – to ensure that ‘nothing like this ever happens again,’ as the Prime Minister said.
And the second statement: “We received,” Karamanlis said, “the Greek railway in a state that does not befit the 21st century. In these 3.5 years, we have made every effort to improve this reality. Unfortunately, these efforts were not enough to prevent such an accident.”
This is a shocking and realistic statement that shows the extent of the work that needs to be done.
And if it were only the railways which are “in a state of disarray in the 21st century,” that would be bad enough. But Greece… stands out as having the most fatal rail accidents of any country in Europe.
I fear that this problem is widespread.
That it’s not just the railways. That many sectors are not yet in the 21st century.
I am afraid that the debate and the criticism that will follow will focus only on the lack of resources for the maintenance of trains and railways.
To a certain extent it is.
However, just as often, if not more often, the reasons that lead to such tragedies are not problems that can be fixed by spending money alone.
If the problem were confined there, many countries would have solved similar problems they face.
Therefore, it is a question of mentality. And that is the hardest thing to change.