Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, the 25th of October, 2011.
It rained so hard, yet we could not even imagine the river of rain that was pouring so violently onto our neighbourhood villages, just two miles from here. It was impossible to watch television since there was no power so the best thing to do was to go to bed.
It was incredulous to awake to the news that slowly arrived. Though the feedback was scarce, it was brutal. Slowly but surely, however, the reality of what had occurred at Vernazza and Monterosso arrived and we understood that apart from the mountains that divided us, Hell had broken loose.
From day one in Riomaggiore and Manarola, the only towns that for whatever reason did not receive any damages whatsoever, we spontaneously had many townspeople filling up the our little head office of Public Assistance in the center of town. And, in this little space we discussed the news trying to understand what we could do to help. From this was born the group, Emergency for the Flood, with the desire to help those who had lost everything and with the desire to not abandon our community engulfed in disaster.
It was easy to begin; everyone wanted to lend a hand to this group and to help organize teams to shovel out the mud, to organize technicians to restore utilities, and to find drivers to buy materials for those in need. Dozens of people offered to shuttle first aid between various boats since the sea on our side was calm. There was a need for everything: boots, gloves, coats, shovels, picks, face masks, and wheelbarrows. In the beginning, we wanted to see the land come back to life and to get rid of the walls of mud; however, after the first days of doing this, we understood the importance of being close to the every single person in need, to support them, letting them know they are not alone in all of this. We began to find a way of saying yes to all requests and thus we found our motto: “We will do everything in our power to not let our neighbors feel abandoned.” From this was born our laundry service – bags full of muddy clothes signed with the name of each family to be washed by the families of Riomaggiore and Manarola – shuttled to and from Vernazza via the sea – and also a service to help those who could no longer live in their homes due to safety issues or due to their homes being full of mud and debris. What has been born is a profound solidarity sprung forth from small gestures to total participation.
Meanwhile, in our little Public Assistance Center, our younger generation has participated by giving a helping hand via telephone calls, and finding solutions through peaks of creativity. All the resources of everyone has begun to come together in our community and the networking has begun to work very well. All the various strands of volunteers organized by all the different teams have been finding refuge for the people who have lost their homes, donations for materials and specific requests from the flood victims, laundry service, transport, acquistions, essential needs for infants, the aged and the sick. We have also created a network for volunteers who have come from outside provinces to lend us a hand. Every objective has been reached for the victory of everyone.
A profound feeling of community is being born or is reawakening here. Everyone’s way of looking at the world has changed, that is, that which at one time seemed essential has become secondary to the dedication, solidarity and compassion we are now feeling for our community. People who really didn’t know each other have now become closer to each other and we are all experiencing this strong sense of unity.
Our work continues with ever larger projects and we have put aside our personal opinions and biases for we have learned that working together is better than working apart. Now we feel stronger despite the devastation that is surrounding us and we are ready to voluntarily and willingly reconstruct that which has been broken; we want to continue to do so.
Anna Fusaro (Member of the group “Emergency for the Flood”)