Memorial held in Germany for 21 who died in Love Parade techno-music festival
DUISBURG, GERMANY -- Thousands of grief-stricken mourners watched in tears Saturday as rescue workers lit one white candle for each of the 21 people crushed to death in a tunnel at the Love Parade techno-music festival.
Nearly 500 people attended the memorial at Salvator church in the western city of Duisburg -- the scene of the tragedy a week ago -- and thousands more watched the event on screens in the city's football stadium and a dozen other churches. Several TV stations carried the service live, and flags across the country flew at half-staff.
"The Love Parade was danced to death," Nikolaus Schneider, leader of the Evangelical Church in Rhineland, said in his opening sermon, following somber organ music and prayers for the deceased. "In the middle of a celebration of lust for life, death showed its ugly face to all of us."
The 21 people who died were ages 18 to 38 and included citizens of Spain, Australia, Italy, Bosnia, China and Holland. About 500 people were injured, and 25 remain hospitalized.
Among those at the church were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Christian Wulff, relatives of the victims and relief workers who had helped rescue the injured.
Franz-Josef Overbeck, the Roman Catholic bishop of the neighboring city of Essen, said: "Life can be so oppositional: One moment there is a party, the next moment we are lying helplessly on the ground."
Several rescue workers also spoke, as well as Hannelore Kraft, the governor of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Duisburg is located.
Kraft talked about the many partygoers who survived the mass panic and now have to find ways to live with their traumatic experiences. Her son, Jan, 17, also attended the Love Parade but was not injured.
"There are many thousands who survived but whose souls were injured," Kraft said. "They are suffering in silence."
Anger has been building in recent days over the city's and the festival organizer's not taking responsibility for the deaths. More than 250 people protested in Duisburg on Thursday and demanded the resignation of Mayor Adolf Sauerland.
People blame Sauerland and the city's authorities for failing to adequately plan for the event. Private organizers also have been criticized for allegedly trying to squeeze as many as 1.4 million revelers into too small a space and for allowing only one access point onto the festival grounds.
It is not clear how many people attended the Love Parade, but current estimates are 150,000 to 300,000 people, much lower than originally thought.