Italy has been shaken to its core by a devastating earthquake. Many hope that the worst is behind them even as aftershocks rock cities. From the desolation, heart-rending stories of loss, love and survival have surfaced.
A young girl, Giorgia, who just turned 4, only survived because her elder sister Giulia held her in a protective embrace. Giulia didn't survive.
In a sports hall in the town of Ascoli Piceno, Giulia among 34 other coffins, of varying sizes. There were small coffins for the 18-month-old baby and a 9-year-old, both of whom had had their lives cut short by the earthquake.
Firefighters and rescue workers, who retrieved the bodies of many and helped save thousands of lives, regretted they could not do more.
"Hello little one," a rescue worker wrote in a note left on Giulia’s coffin. "I am sorry that we arrived late. You had already stopped breathing, but I want you to know up there that we did all we could to get you out of there."
Humans, even in their grief, could understand their loss, rationalize it — but a cocker spaniel, Flash, whose companion died in the earthquake, could do no such thing. Faithfully, he rested beside the coffin of Andrea Cossu, 45, who was vacationing in Pescara del Tronto when he died. Flash repeatedly pawed at Cossu’s coffin, his head bowed.
A crucifix was hung in the sports hall that had been made into a makeshift chapel. Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole addressed the sea of human suffering present in the sports hall.
"Don't be afraid to bewail your suffering, we have seen so much suffering. But I ask you not to lose your courage," D'Ercole implored mourners.
"Only together can we rebuild our houses and churches. Above all, together we can give life back to our communities," he said, speaking in front of a dusty crucifix salvaged from one of the dozens of churches devastated by the quake.
The death count in the disaster-ravaged country has only increased. Bodies are being pulled out from rubble, and in the town of Amatrice alone, 250 residents and tourists have been pronounced dead.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters