In "A year after Italy's earthquake, residents rebuild on their own," an April 11, 2010 op-ed article in The Washington Post, Georgetown University Italian Department Chair Laura Benedetti examines how the destruction in L'Aquila continues to affect residents' lives. She provides a glimpse of life in L'Aquila not often covered by major media.
"After the disaster, the government's response, led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was fast and feverish. The outskirts of L'Aquila were turned into construction sites to build temporary homes for thousands of displaced people. Italian flags were wrapped around the balconies, and dazed families moved into the new housing -- featuring amenities from ironing boards to linens to food baskets with local specialties -- to find a note of welcome from Berlusconi.
But the building frenzy had its downsides. Privately owned land was requisitioned, and the landscape surrounding L'Aquila, which had largely been preserved for generations, metamorphosed into urban sprawl. The hastily built apartment complexes scattered what used to be a close-knit community over a vast territory, with inadequate infrastructure and no social venues. In the meantime, the medieval downtown, which used to be home to 16,000 people and more than 1,000 restaurants, shops and offices, remained eerily quiet and inaccessible."
Benedetti goes on to detail how former L'Aquila residents have been angered by recent revelations that developers sought to profit from the disaster. Their response, she notes, has been to mobilize and begun clearing rubble from L'Aquila's city center themselves.
"With the anniversary of the earthquake, a new urgency has brought together people of all ages, social status, and political and religious beliefs," writes Benedetti. "They claim the city center as necessary to their identity and sense of belonging, and they ask to be an active part of the reconstruction. On Easter Sunday, the Aquilani prepared their traditional meal of bread, salami, hard-boiled eggs and wine. This year, though, they did not eat it at home. They brought it to the main square and shared it with other families in their town."
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