By Maria Giuditta Borselli

Lorenzo Padroni is a great friend and a really nice person. I have to say I was not surprised when he stopped me in the hallway during Orientation week, a few days after the tragic earthquake that hit Amatrice, asking me for advice. He was torn between his duties as a Team Leader and his gut that told him his help was needed elsewhere. Once I told him to go talk to our supervisors, I left Lorenzo with a smile, the very unique smile you get when you know that your best friend is a superhero.

Why did you join Protezione Civile? 

L: I began to feel the need to actively do something for my community after I heard of Mafia Capitale, a scandal within the Roman government. I felt profoundly disappointed by the management of what I felt being my home. I initially thought of being involved with the 5-star movement, but it was too much about abstract politics, and I really wanted to do something concrete. I learned about Protezione Civile through one of the volunteers; she told me that the volunteers of Protezione Civile were “active citizens” and that was exactly what I was looking for. I volunteered with the fire department for the entire summer, but what really challenged me was going to Amatrice.

What did you do there specifically?

L: My unit, Roma Aurelio, is one of the few Protezione Civile units equipped to build post-emergency hospital camps on the field. The Croce Rossa Italiana puts up the ER right after the catastrophe, while my unit focuses on the implementation of hospital departments, like cardiology, pediatrics, and psychiatry, which are not supposed to handle immediate urgencies but just deal with day-to-day problems.

Did you find that these organizations were ready and eager to deal with such an emergency?

L: Well, that’s a very complicated question. We, the volunteers, definitely were. The whole politics behind it was not unfortunately. We were receiving contradicting orders every day, which was obviously a sign of chaos on the management’s part. We had to set up and put down the hospital camp four times, which was really frustrating.

Did you attend the funerals?

L: Yes, I was there. When I watched the news from home and heard the number of the casualties, I was definitely affected, but it was nothing compared to hearing the priest reading their names on what seemed a never ending list. I remember hearing the same last name for 6 different people and it took me a couple of seconds to understand that the earthquake had swept away entire families.

Did you find that Amatrice people were desperate and hopeless? 

L: Absolutely not. I was extremely touched and surprised by their incredible strength.  I particularly remember seeing a guy smile all the time. He wandered every day in the camp helping everyone and giving hope to the ones that had lost it. I once decided to talk to him to learn more about his story. He had lost everything. His house, his car, three of his best friends…all gone. He told me that he could not stop crying for the first few days. Then, he suddenly realized that he was alive. He survived. He may have lost everything, but he still had his own life. He still has a chance.

Did this experience leave you with hope or resignation? 

L: It absolutely gave me hope.  It made me realize how often we take small things, like a bed to sleep on, for granted. I look up to Amatricians also for their love for each other. Despite what happened to them, you see courage in their eyes.. they know they will be able to create a new home for the entire community.


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