by Ferdinando Catalano
A pair of pants for me
Exactly 40 years have passed since that damned Sunday.
It was November 23, 1980 at 7.34 pm: the earth trembles in Irpinia for endless 90 seconds and with an intensity of 7th on the Richter scale. The first TV news arrives but the full extent of that tragedy is not yet understood. Only the next day does the dramatic evidence of what happened appear: entire villages devastated by the fury of the earthquake, houses collapsed as if they were made of butter, dust, screams, torment and people digging with their hands waiting for help that will arrive later. 48 hours. There are 3,000 dead, 8,000 injured, 300,000 homeless.
I felt uncomfortable in my own home. I take my caravan, hook it up to the car and leave for Avellino. Along the highway it seems that Italy has entered the war: endless columns of military vehicles headed towards the area of the earthquake. It was raining, God if it rained, 3 days without ever stopping a minute. Once on the spot, I proceed at walking pace. I’m in Montella or at least what’s left of Montella. And you see the monster, you see it in the houses collapsed on the ground, in the ghostly silence that smells of death, in the petrified face of those who survived.
They tell me where to put the trailer. It won’t be easy between the mud around the ankles and the rain that doesn’t give up for a moment. In the end, drenched from head to toe I make it. I release the car. A family of survivors hosted me in a cellophane tent closed with adhesive tape. They offer me food. They explain to me that their home is no longer there. I think I’ll leave immediately and say goodbye. The lady tells me to wait. She walks away and then comes back with a pair of pants “ they are my husband’s, they will go short but at least they are dry ”. Moved to tears, I go to change in a corner. I thank you and I go back home.
I never went back to that country again. I no longer remember the face of that lady. But I still keep those trousers, all the love of the world in his pockets.
Just as it is written in the Song of Solomon: “Love is as strong as death”