So as you all know, tonight is Good Friday. It is also the day on which they held the funerals for those who were killed in the earthquake in Abruzzo several days ago. We always watch the news at dinner, and the scene today of all the caskets lined up in the main square in Abruzzo really hit me hard. I suppose it is my proximity that is making me more sensitive than normal, but for some reason this disaster has taken on a significance in my own life that I would never be able to articulate. The stories and the scenes have made an impression, and I thought I would share one or two of the nicer stories that have made the news in the last few days:
- Many first-aid workers and volunteers from neighboring cities dressed up like clowns to bring a little joy to the younger victims of the earthquake. They brought toys and balloons and played games, and there was laughter to be heard amongst all the sadness and confusion.
- The day the earthquake hit, every hotel within an 80-km radius opened up their doors and welcomed those who had lost their houses. Also many restaurants have been catering for free, without having been asked to do so by the government.
- Twenty-five hours after the major earthquake hit, rescue workers dug their way to an apartment building where they found several trapped inhabitants, all of whom were still alive. Most notably, they found a 98-year-old woman whose apartment had all but crashed in on her. When they asked her what she did for those 25 hours during which she was trapped without access to food or water, she replied in a matter-of-fact tone that she was doing needlepoint. She then asked, in true Italian fashion, if they could pause the camera for a moment so she could brush her hair before everyone in the world saw her on the news.
- During WWII, the Nazis occupied Abruzzo and apparently did quite a bit of damage to the ancient city. Today, as if in a gesture of reconciliation, the German government promised to rebuild the main cathedral of Abruzzo, which has stood since the 1200’s. In times like these, a little generosity goes a long way.
- One of the bigger tragedies of the earthquake is undoubtedly the student dorm that collapsed, killing everyone who was inside. There was, however, a single girl who had felt a minor quake the day before and had gone to the owners of the building to tell them that it wasn’t safe. When they didn’t listen, she went to the geology department of her university and told them about the building and that she didn’t think it was safe. She said that she was sure a bigger earthquake would come, and she asked their help to move everyone out. They dismissed her without a second thought, and she returned to find that there were cracks in the walls. She gathered all her things and went door to door, telling her classmates that she was leaving because she didn’t think it was safe, and begged them to follow. In the end, no one listened, but she left anyway, with all her belongings, and took the train back home. That night, at 3:00am, the earthquake hit, but she was safe and sound in her hometown 100 km away.
- Madonna, yes, the famous rock star, donated $500,000 to aid in the reconstruction effort. Her grandmother was from Abruzzo.
Of course amongst these bittersweet stories are many, many tragic ones, and I hope that you will all keep the victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers, especially this Easter weekend.