> “I reached my mother’s house just a few hours after the first big earthquake shock. We tried to figure out what to do, what to do that night . . . every few minutes we felt that we had better get out of there! And what about the people in my building who lived alone? And so with a bit of courage, I invited them to leave with me and settle down for the night in the welcome centre that had been set up by the public protection agency.
We were surrounded by hundreds of people with such lost looks on their faces, children and newborns weeping, elderly in wheelchairs. . . I was quiet, not a word, because those who suffer acquire a particular sensitivity that has no need of words. People feel love through small concrete acts of love and compassion. It’s what I tried to do all night long. But inside my heart was breaking.
It reached a point in which any word was useless, fragile as the bricks that crumbled so quickly in my land of Emilia. It swallowed up the life of people who only yesterday were enjoying their peaceful existence, without any tremors, in spite of the crisis. Time was relentless and slow; the night seemed like it would never end. And then during the following days, each moment seemed endless. . .
After restoring some order to my mother’s apartment, where some pieces of furniture had fallen and a few things were broken, I finally was able to convince my Mom to move away from the danger zone, to go and stay with my sister some 150 km away.
Then there was a second shock and my birthplace is now a ghost town: houses destroyed, thousands sleeping in the streets, in tents or somewhere far away. My land continues to shake.
In Modena, Italy, one teacher recounts: ‘This morning, I found myself under my desk to hold on to the arm of a boy who was close to me and was shaking with fear, while the other children were calling to me, and I could only tell them: stay calm. Twenty minutes are but a breath in the wind, but they can turn into an eternity. Some wept, but they all followed me out of the building. They grabbed on to anything they could see, to the person standing next to them. Parents began to trickle into the garden, seeking the only thing that remained unshaken in their minds through this earthquake: the faces of their children.’
Ican still see the sadness and the inconsolable grief of people whom I know from my town, the elderly especially and the children. And also priests who no longer have a church: Eucharistic Jesus was the first evacuee in each area that was hit by the quake.
There are no longer any churches made of stone, but we are the first stones for the rebuilding. The question that should be asked: is there something in life that cannot be shaken? What does the Lord mean to tell us through this earthquake. At times his handwriting is “illegible”. We need faith, and it only takes a pinch of faith to “move mountains”. We ask that it may truly “still the plains”!
Is there something that can’t be shaken? Yes, God-Love. Everything can crumble, but God remains standing.
Meanwhile, messages began to arrive from everywhere in the world, from friends and relatives: we’re with you; we’re praying for you; we are on body and when one part suffers, the entire body suffers. Yes, we are one and this gives us strength and energy and new life!
The people from Emilia are strong, tenacious and hard-working. They have a strong sense of solidarity and sharing. Just a few days after the schools closed the teachers from my area went to the welcoming camps, dressed as clowns to play with the children, their students who had spent the night in tents and cars. . .
We are living a dark moment, but there’s also hope that ruins are not the final world.
Sr Carla Casadei, SFP