Friday, August 2, 2013

August 2, 1980: Lest We forget

3370122_com_800px_0092_bologna_stazione_monumento_vittime_strage_1980_foto_giovanni_dall_orto_19_nov_2007“The memory of that massacre is engraved upon the Nation’s conscience.” (Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic, 2 August 2011).

That Saturday morning, August 2, 1980, at 10:25 a.m. my husband and I, together with a few friends, had just begun to give our apartment a much-needed paint job. Just as Nino began to put the roller into the paint, we heard a huge rumble and the whole apartment began to shake. An earthquake, we thought. No way. Not here in Bologna. There had been no damage, so we just continued painting until my sister-in-law called asking us to go pick her husband up at the hospital.

We were more than a little surprised, as Vito was scheduled for surgery that morning and should already have been in the operating room, but when his wife told us that there had been an explosion at the train station, and that the operation had been cancelled at the last minute – every room available in every hospital in Bologna was needed for the injured – we finally understood the explosion.

Bologna, perhaps the most organized city in Italy, was in utter chaos. A 25 kilogram bomb, composed of TNT, C4 and nitro gelatin as a stabilizer, had3370134_com_strage_di_bologna_soccorsi_17 been left on a small table in the second class waiting room at the station, timed to go off at 10:25 a.m., the precise time that the Ancona – Chiasso train pulled into the station on track 1.

Because of its central position, Bologna is a major stop, connecting Northern Italy to the southern part of the country. Add to this the fact that Italy’s tourist season was in full swing and it’s easy to understand why the station was jam-packed. That day, the station was left in rubble, eighty-five people were killed and two-hundred were more or less seriously injured. Some of the injured later died of their wounds.

And then, a sort of miracle took place: Bologna reorganized itself. There weren’t enough emergency vehicles to take the injured to the city’s various hospitals, so taxi drivers and bus drivers began taking helpless passengers. One bus in particular, number 37, was transformed into a giant ambulance where first aid was administered by health-care personnel; all doctors and nurses who were on vacation promptly returned home upon learning of the tragedy. Hospital wards that had been closed down were reopened to accommodate the large numbers of victims.

3370126_com_stragedibologna_2Travelers who were in the station at the time of the explosion stayed to help aid in searching for possible victims still under the rubble that was once a beautiful station. Bolognese residents shared their homes with the victims’ families, and visited those who were alone in the hospitals.

That afternoon, Italy’s President of the Republic, Sandro Pertini, arrived in the grief-stricken city; with tears running down his face, he addressed the public, “I’m speechless. We’re facing the most criminal action that has ever been undertaken in Italy.” Four days later, on August 6, he participated in the funerals of the victims of the massacre.

On August 26, 1980, warrants and the ensuing arrest of members of the Militants of the Italian Extreme Right-Wing were carried out. Among the arrested were Roberto Fiore, Massimo Morsello, Gabriele Adinolfi, Francesca Mambro, Valerio Fioravanti, Roberto Rinani, Massimiliano Facchini, Paolo Signorelli and Aldo Semerari, who was assassinated on October 1, 1982.

Bologna has not forgotten its citizens and visitors who remained victims of this senseless attack on innocents, Italians and strangers alike. Today, August 2, 2011, the city once again celebrated its annual commemoration, not only of its pain, but also of the courage and solidarity extended. I, too, remember the pain and sorrow, followed by hope and caring, and extend my love to the Bolognese, my friends and brothers and sisters. May we never forget.