I was shocked and saddened to hear about the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck Italy last night. While I’ve never been to the town of L’aquila, I spent some time in the area about a year ago.
A traveler gains serendipitous knowledge of a place just by visiting. When we open our hearts, we gain an understanding of the people and their culture. Because I am able recall trip memories, I can visualize an Italian hill town, feel a connection and the tragedy becomes more profound.
Italians live in tight communities; they know their neighbors, they chit-chat on the streets. Young and old sit on the front steps or the benches by the town fountain. They sip coffee together or meet in the market. They love their children, family and religion.
Lamentably, the 13th century church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, near the city gates of L’Aquila, was severely damaged. Pope Celestine V was crowned there in 1294. Just think– that date was two hundred years before Columbus set sail to discover what is now North America. This Pope was also buried in the crypt. And, by the way, an interesting fact –he was the only pontiff ever to resign.
I’m sorrowful about the loss, but of course buildings can be rebuilt. The lives that were lost (275 dead, 1,500 injured) are gone forever. My heartfelt prayers are with the people who live in or near this historic city.