Mario Porreca is thirty years old. He lives in Castelnuovo di Conza with his wife and three children. He works as a forestry worker and plays soccer. On that Sunday, he is with his daughter Filomena, aged four and a half, and his other daughter Maria Grazia, aged two. He is at his mother’s house, Filomena Del Buono, 59 years old. Mario’s wife, Giuseppina La Morte, is 26, and she has stayed back at home with their son Gerardo Vittorio, also very young.
At 19:30, they are in the kitchen, waiting to eat pizza with corn. One of Mario’s sisters, Giuseppina, 26 years old, is also there. Only their father is not present. His name was Vittorio and he died at 54. Mario has a sister in the United States, a brother in Lausanne and another one in Brussels. After many years in Canada, her sister Lilina is back with her husband. Recently, her cousin Giuseppe also returned from Switzerland to train as a firefighter.
The pizza isn’t ready yet. Mario is holding his favorite daughter, Filomena, in his arms. The earthquake begins. He tries to go to the door, but the house has already been torn apart, he’s hit from all directions and doesn’t know where he is. When the roar ends, he finds himself buried among the rubble. He can only move his head and one arm. He hears Filomena’s voice. Long hours go by, time that cannot be measured. For a few seconds, Mario falls asleep. Filomena keeps calling him, keeps him awake, keeps him alive. She is asking him about her pajamas; she is close by, but he can’t see her. Mario hears a voice coming from outside. It’s his neighbor, who has come to see if his donkey is alive. Dawn arrives, but no one has started digging up the rubble yet. When help finally comes, Mario can’t see anything, his eyes are covered in dust. At eleven in the morning, they finally wrap him in a sheet and take him away. He tells the rescuers to take care of his daughter, telling them she was there, close to him.
Mario is now in the hospital, in Battipaglia. He knows nothing about the rest of his family. He can’t move an arm and a leg. Nobody seems to be able to answer his questions. A few days later, his brother, the one who was in Switzerland, arrives at the hospital, and can’t hide the truth from him any longer: Mario, you are now alone, you don’t have anyone left anymore. Not only did his mother’s house collapse, where everyone else died, but also the house where his wife was, found dead with the baby in her arms. In another house, his sister and brother-in-law had also died. And also his cousin, whom he’d said goodbye to just half an hour before the earthquake. Mario had gone to play bowls that day. He’d come to his mother’s house to have pizza and to watch the game.
Mario will return to Castelnuovo when most of the rubble has been removed and people are housed in prefab homes. He goes every day to the area where he used to live. But the pain has not closed his heart. He is taking part in the life of the village which is trying to come back to life. After three months, they find the remains of a little girl in the area where everything collapsed. Then, in May, he would be the one to find the remains of Rosaria Sessa in the rubble, a woman who had been among the missing.
After 40 years, Mario lives in the same prefab home, by his own choice. He never wanted to move away from there. He has the countryside outside his window. At home, he keeps company with the animals. On the evening of the earthquake, his dog Rin Tin Tin and his sister’s dog Lassie also died. The man from Castelnuovo speaks with a soft voice. He has lost everything he could possibly lose, but he has remained whole—even though his eyes, his limbs, his heart never went away from the cemetery.