NEAR HER, THREE MEN are chatting, their faces are sullen. They come here every day, one of them had a shop in the village that was crushed by the rubble. The portly merchant says defiantly “It’s all motionless, didn’t they tell you?” In the meantime, the younger one who used to live in Pescara del Tronto, sporting an unkempt beard and a black hat, added indignantly: “The inaction of the State is impressive, everything here is like five months ago.” The camp is half-empty. At the top, where the hamlet begins, an army truck blocks the access. On the camp on the side field, a large tent smashed by the snow seems the emblem of the collapse. The man with the hat says: “We were able to heat it up by lighting something inside, but it collapsed.”
The town’s blonde postwoman has already returned from her tour. She says: “I go to Trisungo and Borgo, that’s it. I put a lot of mail in the mailboxes of empty houses as if I were delivering mail to ghosts, others have done the service. Follow me, they come here to get it.” She, too, like many others, moved to a town on the coast.
THE BLUE BAR located below the town, along the Salaria road, has moved into another container, near the damaged building. They reopened on December 28th and is the only operating economic activity, along with two farms in the area. The two side columns crumpled, although it had been built according to anti-seismic methods. Emily Chiesa, the cheerful and smiling girl serving at the counter, came here from Piedmont to join her boyfriend, who is from Arquata Scrivi , a suburb of Arquata del Tronto: “I moved out of love, but perhaps I did not choose the best place” she quips. She adds: “They should begin to urbanize the area of Pescara del Tronto, but everything is motionless, people are angry.” Outside, the snow piles around the square, next to the deserted gas station, surrounded by cars parked against the drifts.
Emily says: “The problem of the snow is not the snow itself, the Salaria road was blocked only for two days.” The other bartender Angelo, a thin man with graying hair, is fumbling in front of the Gaggia espresso machine. He slept here two nights to bring relief to the truckers stranded by the storm. There were about fifteen, between Italians and foreigners. A Cascia hauler with the tanker loaded with milk also slept in a sleeping bag inside the bar, while others took shelter inside the truck bunks.
He confirmed: “They were stuck here from Tuesday to Thursday, the relief crews were not able to open the road, they say the snow plows broke down and a turbine vehicle could not go up the roadway.” He says it skeptically, with the air of one who does not believe it. “They ate, they drank, then they removed the snow from the roof, and Wednesday night we went to save an 80-year old man who lived in a trailer.” He says amused that two of them were carrying fresh eggs in the trailers, which they used to prepare food. “Omelets and carbonara pasta, we cooked more than one hundred portions in two days.” He says, laughing again, “it was an adventure.”
THE POSTAL EMPLOYEE Andrea Paci, Emily’s boyfriend, tells us what it means to live inside the earthquake, bombarded with more than 50,000 shocks in five months. “The roar on August 24th is unforgettable, I could not get out of the house, because the shocks did not have a direction, it was trembling all over.” He says that now “you live and expect the earthquake, you go to bed and wait for the earth to shake.” In a strained voice, he tells us that there are children who wake up agitated in the middle of the night and cannot fall asleep anymore, others have had epileptic seizures. “Fifty thousand shocks, one every four minutes. The earth shakes, and shakes and shakes. The roar is really disturbing, I will never forget it.”
In front of the window, there are technicians and engineers engrossed in a conspiratorial conversation. They talk about a building project that should start because it has been financed already. The maps are scattered on the three round green tables. It is a road that should connect Trisungo and Favalanciata, a tunnel two kilometers long and more cement. It is a €116 million Anas’ project [National Autonomous Roads Corporation], to eliminate four curves. In this area, beaten down to the extreme, it will cost €50 million per kilometer. Enzo Rendina, the last resident of Pescara del Tronto and the living memory of the earthquake, had already told me about this in Borgo. I saw him again outside the post office, sporting his long bleached beard and a dark hat, carrying a backpack that contains a black box with his documents. “We do not need that project, it only serves to pour cement on the only decent stretch, while the road from Favalanciata to Acquasanta is the most critical section of the Salaria road, because of rockfall and flooding.” When you meet him, an uninterrupted story pours out. He begins by saying argumentatively that “from September to December, the state administrators have wasted time, the times of earthquake recovery are always very long, and then we are in today’s Italy.” He is a Pharmakos, a scapegoat, some argue that he is crazy while he tells the truth, he makes conjectures and connections. “When I started the protests in August, they reminded me of the clink of handcuffs” he repeated mockingly, “but they were not able to send me away, I experienced all the shocks here.”
When I am about to leave the Blue Bar, Florindo Petrucci comes in. He is the old man who was carried to safety by the bartender. He has bright eyes, the good gaze of a gentle and slow-moving soul, his face wrinkled and beard unkempt. He lived alone in his trailer. He comes here every day to look out for the rabbits, cats and ten sheep. He takes the bus from Porto d’Ascoli to Arquata every day, and goes back melancholy to the hotel in the evening. He tells the story of his rescue with a smile: “The weight of the snow broke the door jamb, I phoned the bartender and they came to get me.”