People in l'Aquila marked a day of mourning to remember the victims of the deadly quake that struck in the middle of the night a year ago. They are sad but also angry at the pace of reconstruction and the fact they have not yet been allowed to return to their homes in the historic center.
Clapping erupted Tuesday afternoon when thousands of colored balloons were released into the air by the children of L'Aquila. They had gathered in a green field in front of the Basilica of Collemaggio to remember the victims of the deadly quake a year ago.
Noemi still has tears in her eyes as she remembers that terrible night. She took part in a somber procession in the early hours of the morning through the medieval streets of the city. Everyone carried torches and candles. As the names of the victims were read out at 3:32 am, the time of the quake, the bells tolled 308 times.
Today, she says, the sun is shining. It's a lovely day in L'Aquila. This is a beautiful moment, she says, at least we are all here together. We can laugh, unlike last night, despite the memory is always the same one. But at least the children are happy.
Noemi, like many other young students her age, wants to be optimistic about the future. She says they will get their city back but it will take time. It won't be one year or even two. She says the center, which is still practically off-limits, belongs only to the workers and the fire fighters.
There are 200 fire fighters from all over Italy still working in L'Aquila. "After a year we are still escorting people back to their homes to get their personal belongings and we're also assisting the cultural heritage for propping and stabilizing the damaged churches and buildings," said a firefighter. "And we're also working with the Italian army removing some debris from collapsed sites."
More than 65,000 people were made homeless and most have been unable to return to their homes. Churches, historic buildings and apartment buildings were destroyed.
Residents complain not enough has been done after a year. But they are also bothered about something else: the people who come to visit their town. They are tourists who want to see the devastation. They want to see the rubble. They do not understand that people here have been stripped of their lives: they have lost everything: their belongings, their homes and their loved ones.
Sergio came in Tuesday from the Marches region. He had never been to l'Aquila before. He says he came out of curiosity and to see for himself what happened here. It's an empty city, he adds, uninhabited, and it gives you a sense of anguish.
Everything was closed in L'Aquila for a day of city mourning. But even on an ordinary day, only a handful of shops have been reopened in the historic city. The frustration over the lack of progress in reconstruction efforts is in everyone's mind and the big questions is: How long will it take?