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The Fragrant Muse?

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Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, United States
I'm a Creative Soul and Happy Person. I have a passion for my Family, Aromatics, Fairy Gardens, Pugs, SoulCollage, Miniature Worlds, Visual Journals.


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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Year after the Earthquake Hit Home

Villa Sant'Angelo is a beautiful medieval village in the mountains and lies in the province of L'Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region of Italy.  Villa, as we affectionately call it, is about 90 minutes east of Rome and the home of my former husband, Michele.  In the twelve years I lived in Rome, Villa was our weekend respite from the chaos of the city.   It was cool in the summer and always full of children playing outside.  My former in-laws have a huge house whose front door empties right into the town square.  Until they were 17, my sons spent every summer of their lives running, playing soccer and riding their bikes on that piazza and up and down the narrow alley-like streets.

One year ago today, at 3:32 a.m., an earthquake 6.3 on the Richter scale hit central Italy.
 Early that morning I walked into the kitchen where my son Gianluca was having breakfast.  He said "Mom, there was an earthquake in L'Aquila and it hit Nonna's village."  Nonna is his grandmother, my former mother-in-law.   I've lived in California so I know about earthquakes.  Even in Rome we had to run out of our apartment once or twice after a tremor and we'd talk about it for a day or two then life would continue as before.  I imagined this to be the case in Villa.

Not so.   L'Aquila was at the epicenter and affected 26 towns in the area surrounding L'Aquila.  One of the hardest hit was our dear Villa Sant'Angelo.  The town was devastated with over 90% of the buildings destroyed.  Seventeen people were killed, among them several dear friends and relatives.

This post would be more effective with photos of my kids playing on the square before the quake, but I still need to dig them out for scanning - which I will do one day.  In the meantime, all I can find are "after" photos which still shock me.

In the photograph below you can see two homes that had been attached.  The one on the right, with the metal shutters, is the home of Michele and his family who were, gratefully, not home that night.   To the far right is an oval window and the window directly above that was the bedroom we slept in during years there.   The house to the left belong to a cousin named Concetina who didn't survive.  You can even see the bedroom of Michele's mother which was left exposed when the wall came down.  (click on the pics for a full view)

This is the church across the piazza from Michele's home. We attended many a mass and wedding here. I can still smell the sweet aroma of frankincense that would hit your nostril upon entering.
An alley my sons used to run up and down on their way to the soccer field.
This is what the streets looked like before the quake

How many hours did I spend on this piazza pushing a stroller, riding my bike,
walking with my sons, chatting with friends and relatives?

The iron gate on the right led to the home of Pasqualina, one of my favorite people and Michele's cousin.  She was hilarious and lived in NYC for many years so her english was excellent.  She had a fabulous sense of humor.  I spent many afternoons in her kitchen drinking coffee talking about life with her.  Sadly, she didn't survive.
 A campsite for those who lost their homes.  People are still living here.

What still haunts me is the realization that with all the holidays, weekends, summers we spent in this town, with all the time I spent visiting people whose homes are no longer there, with my wedding in nearby L'Aquila, this earthquake could have happened while I was there.  But it didn't.

I could have just as easily been sleeping inside one of those buildings whose walls came down. My boys could have been playing in the home of a friend whose house collapsed. My sense of gratitude for our having escaped this tragedy is profound.  I wonder if that's how the people who didn't go to work that fateful day on 9/11 feel?  

So today I am, in my own way, honoring the residents of Villa Sant'Angelo and those who are no longer with us. 

And giving deep thanks that my family was spared.


Deb said...

I give thanks too! I have goosebumps thinking about the directions our lives take and the effect those choices have....such ripples in the pond huh? I'm glad you had that experience, living in Italy, and your boys summering with grandmother...how wonderful for you all. Oh, I have questions now...must wait until we meet in person. Blessings dear Liz.

Fidgeting Gidget said...

Wow....great post. It's crazy to think that something that devastating can actually happen to people you know...it puts things in perspective!

karen anne said...

Bless you, dear Liz, who I have yet to meet. Bless your friends who perished. Bless your gratitude and awareness. Bless you.

Jeanne Klaver said...

Whoa! These things are so hard to understand. I've been through several earthquakes, but never this kind of devastation. I'm so glad you weren't there then; but...someone was there then and that's what this is all about. Bless all those who suffered loss.

Kitty said...

OMG. That's a post! I felt so sad to look at it. You wrote it with such compassion; someone should give you a Pulitzer. We just don't get that kind of coverage on the news. Peace and Love, kitty

Lola said...

Such beautiful words, emotions . . . the empathy, compassion your words stirred . . .beautifully stated :)

caryjo said...

Thank you for sharing. It is a good reminder that life can change quickly for all of us... that we shouldn't take our situations as "forever" or "for granted."

Wild Roaming One (WRO) said...

I know I'm a few days late, but I'm bowing my head to say a wee prayer for all those people, including dear ones to you, and the survivors who's lives have been devestated by the quake. I'm sure it's still painful to live there and see the visual reminders of their loss...

...and Liz, I'm glad you & you're sons survived too...


decola said...

this is my fathr's home town and several of your relatives names ring a bell. I want to know if my fathers home is still standing , thank you for the pictures i want to see how the town looks and cry while veiwing them, the town was so full of happiness and love, when we went to visit evryone was wonderful, several of my cousin were lost.