LA UNION, Colombia – The “Let’s Go Chape” chorus began rumbling once again on Tuesday in the Colombian city of La Union where a year ago a plane carrying Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team crashed killing 71 people, who nevertheless remain alive in the hearts of their fans.
In a tribute organized by local authorities and the Atletico Nacional soccer organization, the Colombian team with the largest fan following, hundreds of people gathered in La Union’s main park to recall the night of crash – Nov. 28, 2016 – pay homage to the dead, show support for their families and give recognition to the emergency personnel who participated in the rescue and recovery effort.
A short religious ceremony preceded the many symbolic acts that began with reflections by the authorities on the accident and its aftermath.
Then, members of the Colombian air force unveiled a plaque with the names of the 71 victims and the six crash survivors, made a roll call of the victims and dedicated a floral offering.
The ceremony was marked by an overflight of the helicopters that removed the bodies from the nearby hill where the plane went down. The choppers scattered rose petals over those attending the event.
“Those who have departed have not died in our hearts,” said La Union Mayor Hugo Botero during the tribute, evoking the sadness caused by the crash of the Lamia aircraft, which converted the accident location on Gordo Hill into a pilgrimage site in Antioquia province.
The event’s most solemn moment came when doves were released and a minute of silence was observed, which inevitably moved participants to think about the South American Cup final that Nacional and Chapecoense were scheduled to play but which was derailed because of the accident.
Nacional president Andres Botero told reporters that “it’s a sad moment both for Colombia and for Brazil. There are still feelings of sadness. It’s a heartfelt tribute to some boys who were coming with the hope of playing. We’ll never forget them.”
The Brazilian team from Chapeco, in southern Santa Catarina state, was en route to the Jose Maria Cordova Airport near Medellin when it went down.
A Nacional jersey signed by several of that team’s current players was inserted into a “time capsule” to be sent next week to Chapeco and buried for 40 years in the Medellin Park there, after which it will be unearthed to recall the tragedy uniting the Colombian and Brazilian people.
The tributes will continue in Medellin, and that city’s mayor, Federico Gutierrez said that on Wednesday a mural will be inaugurated at Atanasio Girardot stadium, where the final match was to have been played.