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Dignitaries, Rescue Workers Mourn at Ski Disaster Rites

November 18, 2000|From Associated Press

SALZBURG, Austria — In an emotional closure to Austria's worst Alpine disaster, mourners on Friday placed red roses at the foot of a crucifix in this city's 17th century cathedral--one for each of the 155 victims of a cable car blaze.

Salzburg's bishop compared the pain of those grieving with Christ's agony on the cross in a service overflowing with friends and relatives of victims, dignitaries from Austria and abroad, and rescue workers gathered to pay tribute to the skiers and snowboarders killed in the fire.

"The Lord cried . . . 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' " Bishop Georg Eder said, invoking Christ's words before death. "Why? Why? A piercing, gnawing question that is impending here today in the cathedral."

To the muted clang of the cathedral bells, the Mass began at the exact hour that despairing rescue workers emerged a week ago from Kitzsteinhorn mountain to relay the news that there was no hope for those trapped in the cable car tunnel leading to the glacier-fed skiing slope.

"From the sunlit Kitzsteinhorn, darkness fell over the whole country," Eder said, evoking the Apostle Luke's account of how day turned to night in the moment of Christ's death.

Austrian President Thomas Klestil and Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder joined rescue workers, who wore red and gold uniforms that stood out boldly across pews of mourners dressed in black.

Also present were dozens of worshipers in military and police uniforms.

"We know even more clearly since last weekend how small we are as human beings, and how wrong it is to trust completely in technology," Salzburg Gov. Franz Schausberger told worshipers.

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