by Giacomo Linaro*
On October 25th I found myself in Monterosso for work. There was a scheduled meeting for the Board of Directors of “Consortium of Padre Semeria,” with which we manage a large Residential Center (a nursing home and tourist facilities), on the hills of the town. The rapid and violent flood forced us all to contain the first damages of the water coming through the windows and doors drying them quickly, together with the nursing home workers, parents and all those who could help. Soon the town of Monterosso was isolated, because the lights went out; but since we had an independent generator, we had no problems.
The news reached us that the highway was blocked and the railway line was stopped because of a landslide. There were 180 people stranded at the station and no one knew where to bring them. The hotels were closed for the winter season. At about 9:00 pm, the Mayor (with whom we have had good working relationships), and the Civil Protection asked if we could host for the night, all those people, tourists and occasional passengers, who do not have a place to stay. A sudden chain of solidarity broke out that conquered everyone. We opened and used every available space of the center and provided some blankets, food and linen. Even the pews of the chapel were used (after removing the Eucharist).
The Superior General of the Order, the owner of the building, was moved as he relived the tragedy between the walls, the spirit of Father Semeria (the co-founder): made for emergencies, the needy and the homeless. We lived in a concrete, active, and indefatigable fraternity. We were all stuck there for two days and the workers took turns one after another without rest and with joy. The next morning many tourists (almost all foreigners) left, thanking and admiring the extraordinary spirit of hospitality of the Italians.
But there was another problem: because of bad weather, the cook could not come to work, so I improvised and together with my partner, we prepared lunch (meatballs, potatoes, pasta) for the elderly, those who remained and for the first responders of the Civil Protection, which began to use our Center as a base for their immediate relief work, since we were in the most accessible and safe area. In this respect, we had a beautiful collaboration with the Order and Civil Protection Volunteers.
Beautiful and very significant facts subsequently occurred. By order of the Mayor, the Father Semeria Center was asked to welcome children from kindergarten and elementary school so that they can continue their school life, because the town structures were unsafe. The request was immediately accepted. The mothers bring their children to play in our park because the public parks are still not available. After finding the body of Sandro Usai, a volunteer who lost his life saving two people, the corpse was taken up in the nursing home’s mortuary, where people could visit.
In short, the Father Semeria Center has been and still is the point of reference and is available to all citizens. Through the generosity of our workers and managers, the welcoming spirit for the poor of the Founder of the Order of the Disciples meets with the spirit of fraternity present in the Economy of Communion businesses.
There were major damages in the nursing home in Brugnato which is run jointly with the Consortium of Campo del Vescovo. The water was a meter high, dragging tree trunks, garbage cans, cars, and leaving so much mud everywhere. Here too, immediately the day after, a good team of members of our cooperatives came to shovel and help with husbands, wives, children...
In Borghetto Vara, another area that was damaged, we run an industrial laundry, which employs about 80 people. The violent water went inside and washed away washing machine and drying trees, boulders, mud, and trucks all for about a million and a half worth of damage; and 80 people are now at home. In everyone there is sorrow, surprise, distress, but the eagerness to start over is stronger; most of all, to continue this climate of fraternity and mutual help, so as to bring about the best that there is still in each one, despite everything.
*Giacomo Linaro is the President of the Gruppo Tassano, a consortium of 20 cooperative members of EoC