Today was the funeral/memorial service of Sandro Usai, 40, the flood victim from Monterosso. It was moving and intense, as one would expect. Sandro was a native of Sardinia and an adopted son of Monterosso, married to the cousin of our dear friend Lorenzo, and died a hero. We arrived at the piazza in the muddy Old Town promptly at 11 am, joining the rest of the town. The Church, which you've seen in pictures, is still being repaired, so the normal music and parts of a funeral mass were not available. We had the whole town, and solemn bells ringing over a crisp, clear day as all 1,000 members of Monterosso al Mare stood silently, saluting a friend. It was fitting.
His facebook tribute page reads...
"Sandro Usai, un eroe italiano.
Da volontario ha salvato due vite prima di essere sommerso dalla bomba di fango.
Nella Liguria sommersa dal fango emerge un eroe: Sandro Usai. E’ il volontario che ha salvato due donne durante il nubifragio finendo poi per morire sotto la fanghiglia".
The Italian President, Georgio Napolitano, awarded Sandro posthumously with the "medaglia d'oro al valor civile" - one of Italy's highest honors.
Sandro, a volunteer for the Comune, was swept away in the flood while trying to clean the storm drains in the Old Town so the water would be able to flow better. His body was discovered in the ocean two days ago, and the service here is only the first. He will be sent to Sardinia, with the rest of his family, and have another service there. With tears and a procession stretching from Via Roma through the tunnel into the New Town, Sandro's body exited the Church in a casket, adorned with flags of Genoa and Sardinia, his volunteer rain jacket, carried by his sobbing friends, his crumbling wife, flanked by the Bishop of La Spezia and the Mayor. Walking the casket through the streets, he was greeted with applause, tears, and waving Italian flags as the town followed him to the hearse. Under huge banners reading, "Ciao Sandro", the date of the flood, and "Mai Piu" (never more), the town then applauded more, following the hearse to the end of town. We slowly walked, the crowd growing as people started to quietly join the procession, and as every single person stopped, lowered their head, and saluted Sandro for the last time.
I have never seen anything like it.