State funeral held on national day of mourning
Death toll climbs to 291
Italy began the painful task of burying its dead Saturday following a massive earthquake, as aftershocks rattled the heart of the country and the death toll climbed to 291.
In the town of Ascoli Piceno, a local gym was transformed into a funeral hall, a basketball net the backdrop of the altar.
Thirty-five coffins adorned with flowers and framed photographs sat in three rows for victims from the town of Arquata del Tronto in the state funeral. Taped at the foot of each coffin was a white paper with the name of the deceased.
A woman at the funeral named Maria said she lost friends and family in the quake, and described how she and her husband used their bare hands to dig neighbors out of the rubble.
“Community is very important. In small villages like this. The relationship with the land and those you love, with our family, is very, very strong. It will be even stronger. We won’t give up,” she said.
Italy quake highlights our vulnerability to disasterFamily members clustered around each coffin before the service, a teenager sitting on the floor beside one, weeping inconsolably. One family encircled a coffin with peach-colored flowers and held each other in a long embrace.
Hundreds of people attended the Catholic ceremony of prayers, Bible readings and hymns, many themselves survivors in casts and bandages. A wall hanging of Jesus on a crucifix overlooked the grieving community, as mourners fanned themselves in the stifling heat.
‘A new spring’
Among the coffins was one belonging to a young girl named Giulia Rinaldi. Bishop Giovanni d’Ercole, who led the ceremony, told the painful story of how Giulia was found dead on top of her younger sister, Giorgia, apparently shielding her sibling from the downfall.