Thursday, October 27, 2011

We can do this

Today followed another sleepless night, wondering how we can ever reclaim what was here and the lives we had. We woke up tired, dirty (still no water) and depressed and went down to the B and B. The basement was completely flooded, as I said, but the 6 guest rooms only had about 3 inches of muck covering the floor. From 8 am to about 7 pm we labored to clean it, and were able to complete almost 3 of the rooms. There were 7 of us. Tomorrow we start the Cantina, where the water has gone back down significantly.
The Cantina sustained the most damage. The water rose above the bar and the kitchen, meaning that all of our electrical stuff, bar fridge, kitchen equipment, 4 wine fridges - all of it was ruined. But, thank god, the walls are intact and the foundation seems stable. The bathroom, oddly enough, was untouched by the water, and the bottles are dusty but otherwise fine. We, at least, have something to save.
The old town made incredible progress today. The workers got their backhoes and wonderful people showed up with tons of bottled water. Via Roma was cleared out and we can see what is left of the street. It makes the inside of the restaurants and shops damaged that much more dramatic, but it also emphasizes how hard these people have worked all their lives to have what they had, and how unwilling they are to give it up. Talk has turned to how we can fix this, and what we need to do to save this town. Who needs what and when we can get it - how we can manage the electricity, the water, and the engineering of these creaky old buildings that are now filled with 8 feet of mud.
Some of it, yes, can't be saved, but I'm impressed and moved by the optimism of the people here. For lunch and dinner, both in the New Town (at the Restaurant) and the Old Town, in the formerly unrecognizable piazza, the community got together, put out some pots, and served a dinner for everyone. Plastic plates of spaghetti and some stale bread eaten standing up, dirty, on a tractor with my feet squishing in mud. "Dai, Cri," urged a friend, handing me a thin plastic cup of some red wine.
We spoke to friends, all of us commiserating about the damage, but also talking about rebuilding. We did a lot today, and we have a lot more to do. Tomorrow, God willing, we start trying to salvage what we can of the Cantina. And, by the by, I know God is here because he sent the Bishop of La Spezia to the B and B. He blessed us and led us in prayer. I mustered out a nervous "Salve". He also was smartly wearing galoshes under his vestments, which made me grin. When someone like the Bishop comes to town, you'd expect some fuss, but he quietly walked in with another priest, asked us some questions, hugged us and blessed us and left. I cried.
There's so much to be said about what happened today and what is going on here, but I'm absolutely exhausted and I have even more to do tomorrow, the day after, and every day until this place is fixed. I have faith, and not just the Catholic kind, that this can be fixed. When people get together in a disaster, sometimes it's said that it's sad that it took a disaster to unite a community, but that isn't the case in Monterosso. This is a small town of families and friends that has opened its arms to me. All I can do is pick up a shovel, cheers my friends that we are still alive and have something to save, and look towards what is done next. Liguria serves me well. I'm just as stubborn as they are.


  1. Is there any outside help coming ? What can we do from here to help ? Hugs and kisses to you all.


    Rick Steves has info on his site - let him know how you all are doing.