Amatrice, six years after the earthquake we are still at ground zero

The reconstruction of the historic center has just started. The new apartments are there, but they remain empty. Because the earthquake has also made cracks in society. And there are those who have adapted to living in emergency shelters

  amatrice-earthquake-reconstruction-2022 Amatrice, before and after the earthquake: little has changed Photo Video

The only thing left, after six years, is the earthquake: in the looks, in the words, in the cracks that cross everything. Everything else is no longer there or, if we want to be optimistic, it is not there yet. The historic center is only a sad esplanade, guarded by the stump of the city tower. Many have gone, and have never returned - Photo | video

Even the community, once united like that of all small villages, today is crossed by fractures, tensions, accusations. Starting from the top: Giorgio Cortellesi, the mayor in office since October, cannot hide his disappointment, the sense of helplessness: 'There are more than 100 apartments ready to be inhabited: new condominiums, in accordance with the law, earthquake-proof. We have assigned them but they remain empty. Someone even rents them, others have already resold them, and they remain in the SAE, the prefabricated houses, for which the whole Municipality pays: utilities, taxes, maintenance ... Is a handle unscrewed? They call the town hall and ask for someone to go to them with a screwdriver. I don't want to give ultimatums but we have to start again, not to be earthquake victims for life ». Then he slows down, he tries to take into consideration the reasons of those who do not want to enter new homes: «I understand the fear of returning to a concrete house. I understand that friendships have been created in the neighborhoods of prefabricated houses, important ties for those who lost so much love six years ago. I understand everything because I grew up here, but too much aid does not help: we have contributions, exemptions, the Cas to pay for a house, the SuperCas that gives more money. For some there is no longer any reason to get up in the morning and go to work, so I have already eliminated some support: with the victimization and the logic of 'everything is due' we remain in the quagmire. Go and see the new condominiums and tell me if it is not a crime that they remain uninhabited ».

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Luigi, the site manager, guides us through the half-empty complex (out of 60 apartments only 12 have been occupied). It is as desolate as these beautiful and lifeless houses are: «We used the best materials, had tiles, floors, finishes chosen. There are solar panels, an insulating coat, the most expensive fixtures, the structure respects all anti-seismic criteria. Yet everyone is complaining, protesting, accusing. These apartments are infinitely better than the ones they had to leave after the earthquake, but only very few admit it. In case they ask for something more ». But then, those who do not want to go to their new homes, say that the water from the taps comes out brown, that some finishes need to be completed, that when it rains a lot the cellars are flooded and that basically, as Italians often think , it was better when it was worse.

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So? Perhaps those who come to Amatrice, only for a few hours, have only one way to express respect for the tragedy that six years ago took 10 percent of the population away in an instant: to tell, but suspend judgment on these rubble, including human ones. . Those who come here, only for a few hours, will never experience that mood that Mrs. Franca distills in an image: 'We are like candles, waiting for the earthquake to blow again'. Amatrice today is made up of villages of prefabricated houses, crossed by the joy of children who chase each other through the brick paths. Villas that looking at them from 50 meters seem ready to host a party, but at 20 one wonders how they manage to remain standing. Amatrice is the sound of bulldozers, the creaking of footsteps on the thin and temporary floors, a nostalgia, a dream. They tell you: 'Follow the road and turn at the Roma restaurant, you can't go wrong', but you are wrong, because of the Roma restaurant, since that night in August 2016, not a single brick is left standing. Its inhabitants are, as one of the town describes them: 'Lamenters, victimizers, quarrelsome, no longer wanting to get up, after being thrown to the ground by the earthquake', but if we had asked him after a few hours he could have said: 'Hardworking, reactive and united », and there would be no contradiction.

THE INFINITE WAIT AND ESCAPES ON GOOGLE MAPS - Maybe things will change, maybe this feeling of standing still will disappear, maybe now that the companies are back to work here, after years in which they preferred to devote themselves to the lucrative renovations of 110 percent, it will go fast. It is hoped that in the construction sites that have just opened to rebuild the historic center, the unskilled workers will give shape to the Amatrice that everyone is waiting for. In the absence of all this, comfort is found in what is.

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In Preta, one of the many hamlets, devastated like Amatrice, but even further back on the road to reconstruction, Mr. Alberico turns his gaze to the collapsed houses of his village, pausing on the tiled wall of a bathroom, which the earthquake has exposed: “What do you want me to tell you. I grew up here and live in Rome. Coming back is sad, but never coming back is even sadder. Without the roots I am nobody ». A few kilometers further on, in Capricchia, Rinaldo comes to meet us: he is 87 years old and climbs up the heaps of bricks like a chamois. “After the earthquake here in the village we resisted. There were no deaths, but the houses were all unusable. They came down later, with the shocks of October and January. They wanted to put us in
prefabricated, in Amatrice, but we remained, under the awning of the pro loco. All together. Only six years have passed and they still have to start rebuilding. Do you see this washing machine? It's been here since 2016. In theory, we can't touch it, we can't move a pin. And neither do those who could do it. ' So how can you remove this panorama of destruction from your soul and eyes? How to look to the future if everything goes back to the moment of the earthquake? A lady from the village says: «When I'm down I go to Googlemaps. The images are not up to date, so I can take a walk and see everything as it was before the shocks. There are the freshly plastered houses, the flowers on the windowsills: it seems to me to come back to life. Because here, since that day we have been a bit dead '.
Andrea Greco