The earthquake in Abruzzo and a life-changing experience

 Much more than solidarity

“In the dust of Aquila, we saw the best side of human nature”, said Umberto a volunteer and speleologist from the Alpine rescue service, involved in searching through the rubble. “Prejudice, presumption, arrogance disappeared and only the inner purity of human nature remained, innocent as when we were created. There was much more than solidarity: humanity emerged in all its greatness.”

A life-changing experience

Marta, a nineteen year old civil engineering student at Aquila University, is visibly moved as she tells us: “It is an experience that changes you. Only God remains. I knew it, I believed it, but now I have experienced it. What use was it to plan my life out? Now I live one day at a time, or rather, one moment at a time.” The tremor just before 11 pm on April 5 was accompanied by a huge bang. Marta was extremely frightened. She and her friends had no idea what to do, even though their rented house, built during the nineties, seemed safe. They phoned their parents. All of them seemed to agree that they need not worry, there was no need to overreact, they ought to keep their minds on their studies. How much they must have regretted that advice, even though their daughters survived!
Chiara, a twenty-four year old dental student, remembers the tremor at 10.45 pm. She was on the phone with Luisa. They were very scared. Their other colleagues in university accommodation had already left Aquila. They were both alone in different houses, so they decided to stay the night together. “Shall I come there? Or you come here?” Thankfully Chiara went to stay with her friend. Her own house was in a part that was hit the worst.

Rebuilding, outside and within

Another kind of reconstruction work ought not to be forgotten, that of the enormous number of people traumatised by the earthquake. Panic attacks, anxiety and insecurity, the difficulty of coping with everyday life and making plans, are often accompanied by insomnia and passivity. The symptoms of trauma last for months, and are sometimes permanent. “Learning how to cope with them”, explains Giuseppe Rocco, neurologist and psychiatrist from Teramo Health Service, working with the evacuees, “is quite possible, but psychotherapy and drugs are not enough. A network of relationships is required. With all of these, trauma damage can be reversed.” In this important inner reconstruction, the generosity and warmth of groups, movements and associations can do a lot. We can see this even while the tremors go on.
Testimonies published in Città Nuova n 8 on 25/4/2009

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