They are not numbers. They are not pure names. They are people. Stories. Lives.
When you die, even if surrounded by relatives, you are always alone said Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. Every death, even the most serene, in some ways horrible and unjust. Their was in a particular way. Because they have not had the comfort of loved ones. Many did not even have a priest, a prayer, a blessing.
Someone was conscious. Many were not. All of them were courageously and self-denied by doctors and nurses. But often the drama of the moment and the inhumanity of the bureaucracy caused further pain to the family.
as if the victims of the pandemic had vanished. There have been children who learned of their parents’ death only after days. Someone found out that they had been cremated hundreds of miles from home. Others received the dramatic news a few hours after being reassured: his father is better, he will make it.
For this reason too, the victims deserve compensation for the memory. We owe it to them and their families. But we also owe it to ourselves. For the times in which we got worried or cheered by the numbers of the bulletin of 18 that went up or down, as if they were not tragedies, but statistics. For the times when we listened, or we were surprised to think, that basically they were almost all elderly, with other pathologies, that in short they had to die of something (above all not true: many were young, many had no other diseases, and all represent a serious and in their own way irredeemable mourning).
Some were famous, even if in the climate of collective fear the perception of the void they opened in the community was not clear. We have lost the dean of our architects, Vittorio Gregotti, and the most important of our art critics, Germano Celant (a man who had opposed him for life, Vittorio Sgarbi, wrote a beautiful article in death to remember how Celant had invented between Genoa and Turin an avant-garde of international success, Arte Povera, showing that anything can be transformed into art, even stones or industrial processing waste). We lost grandparents and grandchildren, elderly people hospitalized in nursing homes and boys who died almost unbelieving in full force.
The first was a retired farmer from Vo ’Euganeo, Adriano Trevisan, 78 years old. And her daughter Vanessa was the first – in an interview with Fabio Tonacci – to rebel against the dictatorship of bureaucracy, the primacy of statistics: Adriano Trevisan not a number, not the first Italian victim of the coronavirus, not a name and a surname on the newspaper. Adriano Trevisan my dad, Vladimir and Angelo’s dad. my mother Linda’s husband. the grandfather of Nicole and Leonardo.
Then came days when there were a thousand dead: it was hard to count them; let alone tell them. Not only the hospitals but also the morgues and cemeteries went into crisis: the terrible photo of the military trucks leaving Bergamo will remain the symbolic image of the pandemic, with the bishop Francesco Beschi begging the nurses to bless the dying, promising to all an emergency funeral over.
Many victims belong to the categories deployed on the front line. Doctors and nurses, of course. But also 118 volunteers, porters, priests, law enforcement, firefighters. And then the second line, those who have never stopped working: pharmacists, reporters, riders, railway workers, tram drivers, cashiers from supermarkets, farmers, workers from food companies. Those for whom the lockdown was not a way to rest and find family ties, but it meant early risers, sleepless nights, work shifts in deserted cities. Those who did not go out on the balcony to applaud at six in the evening, and very often could not even listen to the applause to which they were addressed.
Others have been victims of chance, or of someone else’s mistake: people who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The president of the Varese Medical Association and the president of Pizzighettone football, the team where Gianluca Vialli grew up, have left. The carabiniere who replied to 112 in Bergamo and the former boxer called Al as the world champion of the highest. The mother of the Filipino twins, the footballers, who became a popular TV personality, and industrialists who made the history of the northern productive districts.
The epidemic has hit unevenly. In some valleys – the richest and hardest working in Europe – there is no family where someone is not mourned. The great cities of the north have been marked, even in morale: we will not forget the deserted and silent nights, traveled only by the ambulance siren. In Rome and in the south, fear prevailed, then frustration with forced enclosure. Also for this reason the memory of the months we have behind us will not be the same everywhere. It is because of the feelings, in addition to the uncertainties of the reconstruction, to unite the Italians.
In the most dramatic moment of our lives – except for the few of us who keep direct memory of the Second World War -, the country has given evidence in line with its history. There have been extraordinary cases of self-denial, courage, generosity. Not just individual stories, but collective stories of resistance and success: think of the Sacco of Milan, the Spallanzani of Rome, the Cotugno of Naples, and in general the effort made by the health personnel.
Overall, the Italians understood, and except for the usual exceptions, they behaved with rigor and dignity, accepting the sacrifices without complaining too much. As per tradition, the ruling classes have been lacking. To deny it would be hypocritical and would not help to do better in the future. Some light: the decision to close in time, avoiding that the infection came massively to the Center-South; the campaign of carpet swabs of the Veneto Region. For the rest, Italy paid a very high price for unpreparedness and disorganization. There were not enough masks, and for a long time it was said that they were not needed. Many hospitals and too many senior homes have become outbreaks. Not enough tampons have been made. The red zone in Val Seriana has not been made. And now we have left blindly, without a serious plan of tests and tracing, without even having arrived at all the money from the layoffs, with the mirage of European aid that risks coming too late.
Our cities, our lives are reviving as if they were thawed little by little. The streets are full, but the premises and shops are still empty. We start again with caution, full of desire but at the same time hesitant. Some phenomena that had already started, from e-commerce to remote work, have further grown. But not for this we can afford to lose human warmth, the sweetness of relationships, the richness of relationships between people. It is one of the ways to resume social life to remember.
This special, with the stories collected by colleagues from the Courier service, not only represents an occasion of memory, but also a way to reflect. The test was tough, but we passed it. We will also continue to live for Celestina, Liliana, Sandro and Virgilio Ravasio, the four brothers that the virus took away in a few days. For Don Vincenzo Rini, father Angelo Moreschi and the dozens of Lombard priests of whom it can be said that they will be priests forever. For Michelangelo Gazzoni, the voice of the Cremonese, who for 35 years has been marking the formations of the local team and guests at the stadium. For Mario Medici, who died of the overcrowding of our hospitals in Erlangen, a Bavarian town he had never heard of. For Tommaso Lamberti, the astrophysicist who will forever have a small planet named after him. For Anna Maria Rizzi, who had survived the bomb in Piazza della Loggia.
More than a Spoon River, their stories are the autobiography of a people. No trivial life. All will leave an imprint, a trace of themselves. The only limit that many others would deserve to be remembered.
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