These are hours of pain. Over 280 people died in the earthquake that shook central Italy, three days ago, destroying villages with less than a hundred inhabitants, and the number of victims increases minute by minute, while more than 2,400 were left homeless. These are hours of sadness, anxiety, and fear. For some people, it is time for remorse and regret for things that should have been done to prevent this tragedy. Whereas the earthquake was not preventable, damage and even loss of human lives could have been avoided through the control and safety operations on buildings and efficient techniques of construction used for the new buildings.
But these are also hours of love and courage, which shine with humanitarian embraces, fraternal solidarity, and genuine help, where the evil demons of inefficiency, corruption, and greed – the real actors of the recent disaster between Lazio, Marche, and Umbria regions, which is apparently natural – are contrasted by the angels of the rescue operations and of the good, the thousands of people involved with extraordinary – and at the same time ordinary – heroism, in searching and rescuing their brothers and sisters in humanity, who remained buried, alive or no longer breathing under the rubble of the earthquake that in the night on Wednesday, 24 August shook Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto, the whole of Italy.
Firefighters, the army and the Air Force, the members of civil protection, the volunteers of the Red Cross and mountain rescue, and others. Over 5400 people, including many ordinary citizens, blood relatives or friends of the human family, even “foreigners, who had never experienced the effects of an earthquake”, rushed to help with heroic hearts and hard working, on the border of martyrdom in the name of love. The firefighters of the smallest state in the world, the Vatican City, were among them, sent there by Pope Francis to make Amatrice, the most devastated of the towns, feel the embrace of the Church.
There is a video on the Internet, titled precisely “The Rescue Angels”. It has reached 350 thousand views and more than 11 thousand likes in no more than 16 hours. We owe this recognition to the people who walk “on piles of rubble” to bring the light of hope, the strength of fraternal communion, the joy of not being alone and abandoned in the dark wreckage of collapsed buildings and wounded lives. “They jump down from helicopters”, “climb broken buildings”, “move the ruins in search of living people”, “dig barehanded,” says the text. Their hands are the hands of God that intertwine with those of the people hit by natural disasters or existential traumas, people tempted to despair or even lash out at a sky that seems too distant and indifferent to them. Thanks to these human angels, very human, we understand the true biblical meaning of the expression: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” Their face is the face of God, their smile is the smile of God, their strength is the strength of God, their heavy breathing is the breath of the Father’s love, their shade over the rubble is the gentle touch of heaven to an Earth shook by pain.
Their loving service is a powerful slap in the face of the sluggish torpor of the people who live existential apathy, often hidden behind the mask of hectic dynamism, allowing their souls to be consumed by time spent in superfluous secular activities, mostly devoid of meaning. The painful and loving sweat of these angels, which has the smell of the humanity’s essence, reaches everyone’s soul, straining into the folds between the selfishness of our lives to reach the deepest point, dusty and covered under the debris of our everyday self-indulgence and opportunism. The images of a short video, only a few among the millions of images that flood our consciousness second by second, imprinted strongly in our hearts, while the pleasant music of the video is the background of the thunderous roar of a silent question: “What do I do for others?” So, in a miracle of love, the ancestral cry that is repeated from the dawn of human history where evil things happen: “Where is God?” becomes the following question, which is fairer and milder: “Where am I?” We, human beings, are the angels and demons on Earth. It is up to us to choose a side, digging barehanded into our consciousness together with them.