Earthquake in Abruzzo, Italy, and reflections on another California Earthquake

Earthquake in Abruzzo: the aftermathPhoto by marca-pasos

Thanks to everyone who Tweeted, emailed, messaged on FB – Milan is very far from the earthquake area, and our friends and family are luckily all fine.

So I’ve been waiting to write because I’m not really sure what to say. And most importantly, after emotion hits me, I want to get to work. To cope, I need to DO. And right now, it’s almost impossible to help from where I am. But a few have asked me what they can do, so I thought I’d make that part of my own DO: let you know what you can do to help.

Being from California, I am no stranger to earthquakes. I remember “the” earthquake, the one usually everyone in Northern California is referring to when they say “the earthquake” – also known as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

It was 7.1 on the Richter scale, and the epicenter was about 15km from my house, as the crow flies. To say I felt the earthquake was an understatement.

I remember the days where we slept on the floor, directly under supporting beams of my aunt’s house so we felt more “safe.” The days when my stepfather spent hours tightening the house back down to the foundation and hoping that no other aftershocks would hit while he was under the house. I remember being glued to the television set as rescue workers and dogs dug for hours in a collapsed freeway looking for signs of life. When a dog running down the hallway could cause my heartbeat to accelerate, or a passing truck rattled the windows and put you instantly into flight mode. The early mornings when your house shuddered and your bed rocked as you felt yet another earthquake.

For some reason when I moved to Italy, I never really thought about earthquakes, though I’ve felt at least two while I’ve lived here. But Italy isn’t that different from California in terms of seismic activity – it’s the most seismic country in Europe, and as they said on the BBC today – Italy is slowly being pulled-apart, along the Apennines, the belt of mountains that runs down through central Italy.

The differences between Italy and California are also enormous – historic centers vs. a “young” development landscape, densely—populated city centers, full of multi-family apartment buildings vs. many single family houses spread one after another. Perhaps this contributed to the “only” 63 fatalities in 1989, which is less than half of the amount of the Abruzzese earthquake, so far. Perhaps most chilling is the destruction of these historic buildings, and rubble and dirt is now covering everything. It’s a reminder to so many about the fragile treasures Italy houses, and how its long history is literally felt in the walls surrounding its people.

When I first saw the pictures on La Repubblica yesterday morning, I didn’t recognize the faces as those I see everyday here in Italy. My mind saw images from Palestine, Turkey, Africa because the faces of grief and shock are nationless, raceless, and religionless.

And though the Prime Minister has decided to refuse international help, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to him.

Information to help in English – feel free to send me your links:

And if you speak and read Italian:

Tenetevi forte, Abruzzo.

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  1. says

    Thank you so much for sharing and for your perspective on this tragedy. I was living in Italy when the California quake occured in ’89 and the feeling of helplessness and sadness I felt for my country was enormous. When the quake in Italy occured on Monday, those same feelings returned. Even though Italy is not “my country”, it is my home, even if I only lived there a short time.

    Don’t KNOW you, but I’m glad you and your loved ones are okay. I appreciate your blog and live vicariously through it!

  2. says

    As someone who still lives in the bay area and remembers “the quake” I freeze anytime I hear of a big earthquake anywhere.

    Glad to hear you and yours are okay.

  3. says

    I have been reading a number of posts about the earthquake. So devastating. I am thankful that my Italian friends are far north of it. But feel so for those affected. Great post.

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