LA UNION, Colombia – Luis Albeiro Valencia placed wooden crosses on the hill now called Cerro Chapecoense (formerly Cerro Gordo), with images of the 71 people who died there on Nov. 28, 2016 in an aircraft accident that altered the lives of the residents of La Union municipality and the Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense forever.
“I don’t want to remember anything about that night,” Valencia said while doing this.
The face of Sissy Arias, one of the five members of the Bolivian crew who died, was the first to appear from the box in which they transport dozens of wooden crosses made by two villagers from Pantalio Village, located on the border of the La Union and La Ceja municipalities.
The idea of the villagers is to prepare the place where the Avro RJ85 LaMia Flight 2933 crashed with flowers and religious symbols to commemorate the first anniversary of the tragedy.
“She was a very pretty pilot,” said Valencia, who spent the night of Nov. 28, 2016 at the top of the hill trying to save some lives after the aircraft crashed, ending the Chapecoense soccer club’s dream to play in the final of the Copa Sudamericana against Atletico Nacional.
“There were 71 victims and it would be very hard for anyone here not to remember them,” Valencia told EFE, explaining his devotion with which he looks after the altar, adorned with images of virgins and saints, which was erected by the residents of this area as a way to seal the brotherhood with the Brazilian city of Chapeco.
On that Colombian mountain, surrounded by tomato, corn and potato crops, the tragedy kept its footprints.
About 200 people visit the Cerro Chapecoense every weekend with trying to find details of the tragedy, pray for the victims, retelling the stories behind the rescue of the six survivors and feel close to the “Chape,” the football team that became immortalized among the green mountains of the Colombian department of Antioquia.
“I don’t like remembering the tragedy, but when I’m working and hear an airplane, it’s the first thing I think about, and everything comes back in memory,” Valencia said.
“There are very few of us who will continue to come. Everything is forgotten,” he said, and then promised that he would continue to look after the place where 71 people’s dreams were cut short.