MOM’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
UPDATE 9 a.m. ET in New Jersey – Italians are facing a blood shortage in the region most affected by the earthquake. All major hospitals in Rome are open and accepting blood donations.
7 a.m. ET in New Jersey – Some of our people are literally feeling the weight of their world on their shoulders at this very moment. What appears to be an older woman lies under piles of concrete and rubble with just enough space to breath, see daylight, and speak with a neighbor and a cameraman who promise help is on the way while blood dries on the woman’s visible limbs. A husband, awoken by the shaking ground, is just in time to push his wife off the bed as the wall violently falls onto it. The roof of a church collapses and crashes to the ground as the walls collapse around it. The whole thing is caught on tape. Two babies have been saved. A young girl carried out of the rubble elsewhere was not so lucky. She has lost her life. We have lost her.
A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck near Rieti, north of Rome, where the shaking was felt by many, in the wee hours of the morning while most were sleeping in their beds. Some towns, including Pescara del Tronto and Amatrice have been practically leveled. The quake is being compared to the deadly Aquila earthquake of 2009. Those medical professionals who were away on vacation – it’s August, which means the country is in ferie (on holiday) – are being asked to return to help. “Italy cries,” says Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who also thanks all those who are volunteering to help and save as many lives as possible. “In moments of difficulty, Italy knows what to do,” he added before calling everyone back to work to pull people out of the rubble and provide some hope for the survivors. (CNN is providing live updates in English and I’ll be updating this post as more information becomes available for those who are interested.)
It’s too early to tell how many people have perished, how many are missing, or what kind of recovery the country is facing. What we can say is that the toll on the people and the places is grave. As I write this, I watch the Italian news (TG3 and other TV news direct from Italy), and I see townspeople and emergency workers trying to move bricks, builders, and rubble with their bare hands to get people out from under their homes. At press time there was no access to roads for heavy equipment that could help move the boulders more easily. The emergency responders want to work much faster than the work allows. They are yelling at those under the rubble to hang in there, to stay awake, to cling to life. Those who made it out of their homes, are visibly shaken or in shock and sitting in the street with hospital blankets.
The scene is familiar to my people in Ischia, who remember the 1980 earthquake that hit southern Italy, including nearby Naples. My relatives felt the shaking and ran out of their homes. Aftershocks came, and many people spent up to a week sleeping in the street for fear of the homes falling on them. Every time an earthquake hits, it stirs these ugly memories. Southern Italy is the poorest part of the country, and recovery from this kind of devastation is always a big challenge.
Much like the flooding that recently hit Louisiana in the United States, these natural disasters often touch the lives of the most vulnerable, the most in need, the least prepared financially. Right now, Italy is facing an economic crisis, and that’s been the focus of Renzi and others in the European Union in the wake of Brexit, Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Now, he’ll have to juggle economic recovery, a post-Brexit EU plan, and the clean up of this devastating earthquake. The emotional scars will last a lifetime for some of the survivors.
But the strength of the Italians is their commitment to family. Everything revolves around family, and family includes your neighbors and friends in the community. People stick by each other and they are generous with their time, affection, and food and drink. It is what draws people around the world to Italy. And it is what will get them through this latest tragedy.