Shattered Ground, Shattered Lives

Italy's Recent Earthquake Toppled Hopes for a Family-focused Easter for Most Central-Italy Families

An impromptu Easter service is held in L’Aquila, where a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck, killing 300 and leaving 40,000 homeless in its wake. ©  

Operation Blessing goes to work in getting people needed relief. © Courtesy of Operation Blessing 

Rubble is everywhere. The once architecturally aesthetic buildings are now crumbled, an endless stream of tent cities has been erected in their place.

This is the site of the L’Aquila—northeast of Rome in the Abruzzo region of the Apennine Mountains—and surrounding area in central Italy where a 6.3-magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc.

Tremors toppled structures in 26 cities, towns and villages, an area that totaled 230 square miles on April 6. Initial and follow-on reports have put the death toll just shy of 300. Officials estimated the number of homeless to be at almost 40,000, with an estimated 24,000 living in emergency camps and 15,000 given shelter in hotels or other people’s homes.

In villages and towns where there were only hundreds, the loss of life brought on great grief. So many lost family members.

Many of those that lost homes refuse to leave, clinging so closely to the only place they have ever lived.

The onslaught of buildings that fell buried many alive, due to many being still asleep when the ground started shaking pre-dawn. A handful of bodies were pulled out from university dormitory and other public facilities. Stone churches, built centuries ago, fell easily to the ground.

A wide range of relief efforts, in terms of medical, food and psychiatric aid, are proof that God is at work and very much sovereign in this situation. Several organizations have planted themselves here and have provided help to those in need.

The tragic set of events came at the crossroads of global Christian celebration of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

Good Friday here was not welcomed with elation but rather with somberness as the entire country honored a day of mourning. Most recall the coffins, more than 200, lined up in the central square; the children having pictures and toys above those coffins.

“Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” These were the words spoken by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s deputy, quoting the prophet Isaiah during that Good Friday funeral service.

On Easter, priests swooped through the tent cities on foot, congregating people where they could for mass, and sharing in the holy ritual of communion.

As hard as it was, as many tears as were shed at the funeral, with so many family members saying good bye to loved ones lost in an instant, many at least felt some sort of closure.

Many are in unison in their hearts that just like Christ’s death and resurrection, this medieval city and surrounding areas will rebuild.