Wednesday, July 28, 2010
We’ve had two visits to the city now, and it couldn’t be more sobering. The devastation is so complete, one is tempted to think the best thing to do is bulldoze the town and rebuild elsewhere. Especially as the scientists warn that a second earthquake is preparing itself.
The town center, which we were told wasn’t open for us to do ministry in, has in fact opened recently. We walked with the Aquilinos on Sunday evening, down the main street and into the main piazza, in a hushed reverence as if we were all in a museum. The Italians were commenting to one another about various restaurants, cafes and shops: “This is where we used to meet for coffee…This is where my mother died…I worked in this building. If the earthquake had struck during the day, I would be dead now.”
A young lady in the church took us to the remains of her dorm, where she lost 8 friends, and narrowly escaped herself—and that down a human pyramid, students helping students escape after the stairwell collapsed. Photos of the victims were posted on a fence and a memorial across the street, along with flowers, poems, memorabilia. She turned away with a comment: “I wonder when my picture will be hanging on a fence.”
On another fence, lining a city block, a military vehicle is parked and several soldiers stand guard. The location is the site of a recent manifestation, and the fence is filled with keys: house keys, building keys, symbolic keys, keys with pictures attached, one key with a drawing of a kitten on it—tied with ribbon, rope or wire by demonstrators demanding to be let back in their condemned homes to see what they could salvage.
Scaffolding is the new city skyline. Every building seems wrapped in it, which gives the city an eerie, sculptural atmosphere. Doorways and windows are braced with 2x4’s. Windows are cracked and covered in plastic. Two homeless dogs sleep in the piazza.
The Aquilinos are in despair. Not the wailing, weeping, ranting kind, but the more dangerous kind: mute, numb, and apathetic. What good is it to hope, when corruption is rampant, another earthquake is coming, government officials are stealing funds designated to rebuild, the Catholic Church has been conspicuous by its absence of help, and the Italian character will not do anything about it? These are some of the comments we are hearing.
How do we pierce the numbness? Or do we? Do we sit, like Job’s friends, and mourn with the Aquilinos, or do we try to do something about it? We’re still discussing it, and beginning to sketch and draw out ideas. The Italian church would be happy with a simple distribution of literature; we’d like to go further. Pray for divine inspiration, patience and unity. We’ve got a long way to go till next week, when we are to exhibit in two locales, including the main piazza of L'Aquilino. May we prove worthy of the opportunity and privilege.
Posted by Pat Butler at 2:44 AM