Navigating the Aftershocks

The windows rattled as the floor shook violently. The bed frame vibrated beneath me. Had a train just gone past the house? No, there was no railway near here. A really big lorry then? Surely not at this time of the morning – it was 3.36 a.m. Even in my semi-conscious state, somewhere between asleep and awake, I knew what it was. This was my first earthquake and, although it lasted only a few seconds, it was not an experience I would like to repeat. Nobody else in the house got up so I dozed off again.

As with everything nowadays, I headed to Facebook when I woke up to see if anyone else had felt anything. We’d had small tremors here in the past but I’d always slept through them. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. The morning timeline carried news of death and destruction; the worst earthquake to hit Italy since 2009. Family and friends from back home had sent messages asking if we were okay. BBC News claimed at least 10 people were dead. That number was set to rise dramatically as victims were pulled from the collapsed buildings. The town of Amatrice had been destroyed, completely wiped off the map. A state of emergency was declared. Residents were buried under the rubble as rescue workers desperately tried to dig them out. Dust-covered survivors wept in the streets.

Five days later, the country is slowly coming to terms with the number of dead. At least 290 people lost their lives that night with hundreds more injured. The first funerals have taken place while rescue teams sift through the rubble and almost 3000 survivors sleep in tents or in their cars, worried looters may steal the few possessions they have left. The Italian prime minister has promised temporary wooden housing before winter hits while right wing supporters shout cries of putting the immigrants in the tents and survivors in the hotels and houses, desperately unaware that most of the survivors don’t want to move from the area. They are seemingly unaware that when you live through such a tragedy, you understand fully the importance of coming together as humans. It’s not Us vs Them. It seems disaster always brings out the ugly side of humanity. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; yesterday’s news carried images of a young couple who married among the debris, determined to share their happiness and light in such a trying time.

When I moved here two and a half years ago, I had no idea that there had been an equally deadly earthquake in L’Aquila, a town less than an hour from me. 309 people died, many of whom were students, and the quake damaged buildings here in Sulmona. In fact, some buildings are still awaiting reparations, meanwhile they are being held up by scaffolding.

What happened Wednesday night will have grave consequences for years to come as people try to rebuild their homes and indeed their lives. It really was too close for comfort for me and, as a text from my father read, am I sure I wanna live here? I have essentially moved to one of the world’s earthquake hotspots and what’s more, I’m willingly remaining. As I replied to my dad’s text, you could walk out your house and get hit by a bus in the morning. There are no guarantees in life. I don’t want to leave this place, for now it’s my home and I want to stay. All I can do is take the best precautions and be prepared for what may happen. The last earthquake to rock Sulmona was in 1706 when 1000 people died . Some say we’re due for another. Wednesday’s earthquake was a wake up call. The day after, I prepared my earthquake kit as my mum googled what to put in it and the boyfriend took me to buy torches. I’ll also be looking for a new house as living alone on the second floor of an old building is making me a little nervous (not to mention the boyfriend).

Other than that, I simply have to get on with my life as I would in any other country. Italy is my home and the risk of earthquakes is not going to stop me from living and loving here.

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2 thoughts on “Navigating the Aftershocks

  1. Such a sad catastrophe. As scary as it is, you’re right, there are no guarantees in life and we’re not promised tomorrow. I really do hope this tragedy continues to bring people together.

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