April 12, 2009
Posted: 2042 GMT


I have had the good fortune of living in Rome, Italy in my past lives. For a semester as a college junior in 2006, and then last year immediately following my graduation from college. And now that the week has passed, and the temporal vapors have settled and lifted, and the dead have begun to be mourned, I can finally report back what I have heard and seen.

First, it’s important to note a few things: L’Aquila is the center of the region of Abruzzo with a population of more than 70,000, so will naturally attract most of the media’s interest. As well it should. Its infrastructure has been devastated, its people frightened, killed and ruined. As one friend I spoke to, who lives in the region said, “it simply doesn't exist anymore.”

But the whole of Abruzzo, with its population of more than a million, has suffered too, with many towns being leveled. My friend, whose brother by the way lost a home in L’Aquila, put it bluntly: “We're scared, we don't know if our houses are safe or not and we don't feel comfortable. There have been many earthquakes after the big one and they brought more troubles.” She told me this as she prepared for a night of sleep under her house beams. This to provide what protection she could get in case her house came tumbling down.

And amongst those towns that still remain standing—albeit somewhat reluctantly and uncertainly– are families, some of which have roots in the area stretching back centuries. They’re unwilling to vacate the tenuously erect infrastructure that surrounds them. They remain clinging to the only lives they know. Lives that are on the verge of collapsing, literally. “Thousands of people are still living there,” my friend said. “They don't want to move, since they still want to stay in their town, close to their community.”

Italy is not accustomed to such national crises or disasters, but the country has rallied. A friend in Rome told me that there has been an overwhelming outpouring of aid. People, even in these tough economic times, are donating money in hopes of helping out. Another friend in Rome, a journalist, told me he had heard over 170 hotels in Abruzzo alone were offering free accommodation to those affected by the earthquake. It’s been proposed politicians give their April wages away and that the superenalotto, the countries biggest lottery drawing, be given to recovery efforts.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Giorgio Napolitano by all acounts have been copascetic in their leadership. Regardless, some journalists in Italy say Italians don’t often look to their politicians for strength. Berlusconi especially, a media mogul and a businessman, with a knack for incendiary speech who has held his current post three different times in the last 15 years, has been criticized for getting by more on his familiarity than anything else.

So it is the communal bonds that will most likely save these leveled towns now, as Italians look to each other to recover. And they will. This is an ancient culture that has withstood plenty. And maybe fewer churches will stand, and fewer ancient buildings too, and they will be replaced by uglier, surely less beautiful buildings, but they will be rebuilt, slowly and through time.

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Filed under: Italy Earthquake

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