Like many of you, my heart goes out to the people affected by the devastating earthquake that hit central Italy this morning. The damage spans several regions, with Umbria and Lazio looking like they've sustained the most deaths.
I'm no expert on Italy, but I've visited several times, including one extended vacation to a hill town in Umbria close to Perugia, the epicenter of today's quake. We stayed in an apartment that was built in the 1500s, with several big holes cut into the remarkably thick walls that allowed for plumbing and electricity to be added centuries later. That little town, Todi, was very much like the towns stricken today: a blend of very old and current, with infrastructure a patchwork of modern placed over or alongside ancient.
The hill towns of central Italy have been racked by earthquakes since they were settled, and every few years one or two towns are basically obliterated. That's just a fact, albeit a sad one, and one Italians are always aware of.
It's clear that the affected towns need an awful lot of help, and I urge you to do what you can to aid in their survival. In my experience, there is a lot of international help offered while the dust is still settling, help that an individual can't do much to enhance. When you need earth-moving equipment and jackhammers to rescue people, you need them right now. But the flurry of concern will die down as soon as the rubble is cleared. That's when I think it's more important to find a way to help.
Each of these towns will have building projects to repair their historic churches, landmarks, and piazzas, and they'll need all the funds they can get. If you're the type of person who will forget about this in six months, by all means--give now. But if you can remember to check back on the affected towns in six months or a year, I'm sure your contributions will more likely go to a specific project--rather than the general operations of a rescue organization. There's nothing wrong with keeping the Red Cross going, of course. But if you've been moved by a 12th century church that's lost its campanile, check back and see if you can direct your financial help to that specific spot.
I'm going to try to keep on top of this, and I'll post an update in a few months, suggesting appeals I've learned of. Having lived in Southern California, I'm very aware of how long it takes for the abject fear to settle down after a significant quake. Having to live with a low level of panic for months while having the very soul of your historic city lying in ruins around you must be an awful combination. Let's hope all of the survivors are rescued as quickly as possible, and let's do our best to help these small, significant towns survive.
Forza e coraggio!