We left the “new town” area of l’Aquila and headed to the ghost town of Onna, tiny town on the Atero River about 10 kms. from l’Aquila where 80% of the homes were devastated, the other 20% had to be abandoned, and 41 of the 350 inhabitants lost their lives. A sign was posted in front of a pile of rubble: Lavori in corso (“work going on”) but as I walked the alleyways in the midst of deserted piles of roof beams, terracotta rooftiles, twisted remains of wrought iron balconies, wooden doors off their hinges, I saw no one.
The children’s slide in the village park and the nearby gazebo for picnicking families remain sad remembrances of village life. The limestone memorial from WWII is still affixed to a wall of the crumbled Comune, though the traditional laurel wreath of victory has fallen to the ground below. The only telephone booth of the town stands nearby, undamaged in the midst of so much devastation. Across the street, a prayer card hangs on the grated window of a collapsed house, empty vases – one broken – still on the window ledge. A teddy bear and a mineral water bottle sit yet another window ledge.
On the walls of one large collapsed house, the owner returned to paint his name on the walls, a sort of ownership claim: DeFelice was scrawled in black letters. Many doorways of Onna were arched and some limestone arches appeared as old as the 16th or 17th- century. The arches of Onna, at least, remain proudly standing in the midst of the rubble.
As I left the town, four or five men in hardhats were sitting on a bench, eating sandwiches, sharing bottles of wine and beer. They were their to guard Onna’s rubble – unfortunately not to rebuild.
(note: L’Aquila earthquake was April 6, 2009 – 309 dead – about `15% of all deaths in the small town of Onna)