Italy: Netizens Ponder the April 2009 L'Aquila Earthquake

[All links lead to Italian language pages, except when otherwise noted]

As still marked by many church clocks and bell towers at the center of L'Aquila [en], at 3:32 am of April 6, 2009, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake broke the silence of the sleeping town and destroyed the lives of many of its inhabitants. To remember the third anniversary of the tragic event, citizens came together in support and remembrance, created numerous web pages for retelling and commenting upon the earthquake and its far-reaching effects.

Church clock stuck at 3:32 am of April 6, 2009 in L'Aquila. Photo by StazioneMIR, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.5 License

Church clock stuck at 3:32 am of April 6, 2009 in L'Aquila. Photo by StazioneMIR, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.5 License

There was no dearth of official visits and commemorations — significant to many was the presence of Fabrizio Barca, the minister of “Coesione territoriale” [the Italian office created in 2011 to coordinate the actions of local governments and support political infrastructure in central-southern Italy], who has shown particular concern for Aquila's situation and to creating transparency in the reconstruction process — amidst great sorrow and grief, demands for justice and for guarantees of reconstruction.

In the last two days, many have shared, above all via Twitter, (#laquila#terremoto#laquilapernoi#6aprile) their memories and reflections, and expressed solidarity with the people of Aquila. Highly referenced in these tweets is a telephone conversation intercepted the day after the earthquake, in which two businessmen joke about the event, looking forward hungrily to the money to be made in rebuilding. In this short video you can hear a excerpt from the conversation.

‏ @ermeneleutico dedicates a few verses to the town:

Buonanotte l'Aquila / riempita di promesse / usata e abbandonata / per meschino interesse

Goodnight L'Aquila / full of promise / used and abandoned / for petty self-interest

While Marta Torres shows her solidarity with the people of the city of L'Aquila and the region of Abruzzo:

Non dimentico mai #laquila, città distrutta il #6aprile. VERGOGNA k sia ancora una città fantasma. Tutti il mio affetto al popolo abruzzese ♥

I will never forget #laquila, destroyed city the #6aprile. SHAME that it is still a ghost town. All of my affection to the people of Abruzzo ♥

@Bebo1936 recounts his experience three years ago:

Tre anni fa ero a scappare per la violenta scossa di #Earthquake all’#aquila #Abruzzo

Three years ago I was trying to escape the violent shaking of the #Earthquake in #aquila #Abruzzo

And @DaniDBJ adds:

L'Italia che quella notte non rideva, oggi non dimentica.. #6april#laquila

Italy did not laugh that night, today it does not forget.. #6april#laquila

Finally, @liv_77 demonstrates how there has not yet been a return to normalcy for the people of L'Aquila:

Da 3 anni, ahimè, guardo il sito di INGV -@INGVterremoti#laquila

For 3 years, alas, I look at the INGV website -@INGVterremoti#laquila

Many initiatives have been launched to safeguard the memory of the event. A video made by Shoot4Change and Anpas collected voices, images and live stories, creating a space for collective sharing and remembering.


Move Productions and Al Jazeera English produced a documentary titled “Ritorno a L'Aquila” (Return to L'Aquila), that was transmitted today by hundreds of web tv channels, coordinated by the network together with Internet provider Tiscali.

Furthermore, on April 15, the online magazine has launched a campaign with the goal of maintaining a high level of attention on L'Aquila emergency in order to discuss publicly the reconstruction projects and the rebirth of the city. To this end, there's also been a barcamp organized in the central Duomo Square. For information and updates on the organization of these events, you can follow the hashtag #occupylaquila on Twitter.

The collective 3:32, put together in the weeks following the earthquake, published on its blog a long reflection on the most relevant events to characterize the past three years in L'Aquila:

Il terremoto del 2009 è stato senza dubbio una catastrofe; e quindi, come qualsiasi catastrofe nella storia dell’evoluzione del mondo, ha distrutto delle cose, delle forme di vita, ma ne ha fatte sorgere delle altre. Anzi, la sfida della ricostruzione è riuscita ad attivare dei processi di incontro e comunicazione tra le persone che prima sembravano impossibili. […] Più che restaurata, o semplicemente ricostruita, la nostra città deve essere rifondata. Battersi per L’Aquila oggi significa in primo luogo opporsi alle speculazioni edilizie e all’ulteriore consumo di suolo e territorio. […] La nostra è certamente una lotta territoriale, con la sua identità e le sue specificità, ma è anche una lotta per un modello complessivo fatto di politica trasparente, di decisioni realmente democratiche e partecipate, di rispetto  del patrimonio ambientale e culturale e sviluppo eco-sostenibile.

The 2009 earthquake was without a doubt catastrophic; as with any catastrophe there's ever been, it destroyed many things, it destroyed many living things, but it gave way to new creations. The challenge of reconstruction has activated certain channels of communication that before would have seemed impossible. […] More than restored, or simply reconstructed, our city has to be founded again. To fight for L'Aquila today means, in the first place, to oppose building speculation and the further buying up of land and territory. […] Ours is specifically a territorial dispute, but it is also a fight for a totally transperant political model. A truly participatory model in which real democratic decisions are made, in which our environmental and cultural patrimony is respected and sustained.
L'Aquila still resisting. Photo by Abruzzo Indymedia under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 License

L'Aquila still resisting. Photo by Abruzzo Indymedia under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 License

There has been no lack of official voices either, like that of Stefania Pezzopane, councilwoman for culture in L'Aquila, who on the news website wrote:

Il 6 aprile resta una data diversa dalle altre perché sono passati più di mille giorni e sentiamo sulle nostre vite il peso di una precarietà e di un disorientamento che persistono. La nostra città è ancora deserta, ferita, priva di quella vita pulsante che era, poi, la quotidianità di ciascuno di noi. […] Questo non è un giorno normale proprio perché, a fianco al lutto che è impresso come una ferita nei nostri cuori, ci stupiamo della nostra forza e della speranza che ancora riusciamo a donare allo sguardo con cui cerchiamo di abbracciare il futuro.

April 6 remains a date that is different from all others. Today, more than 1,000 days after that date, we yet feel the weight of persisting unpredictability and disorientation. Our city is still a wasteland, wounded, deprived of its pulse, which beat beneath the daily experience of every one of us. […] This is no normal day precisely because, next to the mourning that is cut like a wound into our hearts, we continually surprise ourselves at our strength and we still manage to look to the future with hope.

Walking about the streets of the city and its surrounding neighborhoods, one realizes that in L'Aquila the trauma is still present and visible, but stronger yet is the resentment of those families who will never see their homes again, of those who feel abandoned and who believe that not enough has been done, that in three years nothing (or almost nothing) has changed: debris and rubble piled on the streets downtown, houses propped-up in makeshift fashion, windowless buildings make up the cityscape awaiting tourists in the medieval jewel of Abruzzo.

Thousands were wounded and 309 people died, many of whom were students from all over Italy who had moved to L'Aquila to attend its university.

The L'Aquila tragedy, as it persisted after the earthquake, did not concern solely the loss of human life during the catastrophic event: there were many judicial inquiries (some still under way) regarding the handling of the emergency, the responsibilty of those companies that chose building materials and designs that were unfit for an earthquake zone (in particular, the construction of public buildings, like student housing, has come under questioning), and regarding lobbyists and other groups interested in receiving a portion of the funds allocated to reconstruction of the city and the entire seismic crater.

After the triple catastrophe (tsunami, earthquake, near nuclear meltdown) that a year ago battered Japan [en], there are many comparisons to be made between Fukushima and L'Aquila, comparisons that underline the differences in ‘approach’ between Italian and Japanese scientists when it comes to making previsions for earthquakes based on seismology.

A couple of months after the event, when the media frenzy that brought L'Aquila such (sad) international notoriety had left, the floodlights suddenly turned off. Now, three years after the tragedy, there is still much work to be done before the city and community can return to the actual stability they once knew.

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