After Amatrice, Italy has opened its heart

Article published on Sept. 5, 2016
Article published on Sept. 5, 2016

Just a few hours after the earthquake which destroyed Amatrice, Arquata and Accumuli, we saw the best of Italy as a fundraising effort started all over the country to provide victims with help and food. The images of the tragedy broke everybody's hearts, but they haven't stopped beating. [OPINION]

Try to imagine this situation: you're sleeping peacefully in your bed when you're awoken by the walls of your house shaking. What would you be like, if your room were falling apart, your possessions falling off the shelves and you could hear your equally frightened parents, brothers, sisters and friends screaming? I don't think anyone could ever imagine that fear, or the depression caused by the loss of everything you have been fighting for and of someone you have absolutely loved. Experiences like this can be understood only if you live them, but for the most part the Italian people have been showing their solidarity. Just a few hours after the earthquake a number of solidarity efforts had been kicked off.

The 50th Amatriciana Festival, named for a famous local dish, was due to take place last month in Amatrice: the town which saw the most devastation and the biggest lost of life. Inspired by the festival, food blogger Paolo Campana came up with the idea of bulding a fundraising effort around the dish. Restaurants have been encouraged to participate by using the hashtag #AmatricianaSolidale, and paying two euros per dish sold to the Italian Red Cross.

More than just a pasta dish

Demonstrations of solidarity and of support came from all over Italy and across the world. The Department of Civil Protection immediately started a fund via mobile phone to rebuild assets and public services which were destroyed by the earthquake, while the Italian Red Cross set up a similar fund for victims. During the first few hours of the emergency people were hurrying up to the centers for the blood drive, or bustling to collection centers to offer food and blankets  to be sent to the destroyed areas. From Christ the Redeemer to the Empire State Building, momuments across the world shone with the colours of the Italian flag. The hashtag #PrayForItaly trended worldwide. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver echoed the campaigns in Amatrice in his own restaurants, promising to donate £2 for every plate of pasta he sold. Lady Gaga showed her support for the victims on social media. Mark Zuckerberg expressed his sympathy to the victims on a visit to Italy, and announced that he would donate $50,000 to the Red Cross.

Polemics in the aftermath

Everything seemed to be going perfectly for a moment. However, it wasn't to last. Heated arguments eventually arose. Where will the money of the fundraising efforts be invested? How and when will something be done? Just like in the past, inquiries has been have been ordered into the materials used in the construction of the destroyed buildings (in particular Amatrice's schools and hospital). The conspiracy theories inevitably took hold. Some discuss about the data released by the governement, others ask if the money is really being earmarked to build new houses, others still complain that the government is more concerned with migrants than Italian people. These theories aren't worth comment, however. The facts speak for themselves.

But fact remains that solidarity is not sufficient. There's an old saying for times like this: "It's not the earthquake that kills, but the houses made by man." This too true. For the umpteenth time we have shown our usefulness and solidarity in times of crisis. However, we've also shown our complete inability to learn from the past or prepare for the future. Berice, Friuli, Irpinia, Umbria, Aquila and now Amatrice. We should really try to learn something from our mistakes, we should make the security of our houses a priority. 

What really hurts is that after the last funeral is held and the last house rebuilt, everything will be forgotten. However, our hearts are still broken by the images of the damage the earthquake caused, of the miserable search of survivals, of victims' funerals. A broken heart struggles to forget the cause of its pain. If we aren't able to keep the memory of Amarice in our minds, let's try to use our hearts to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.