After the first night, no one stayed by themselves. No one. And no one has ever fully described the fatigue, the effort, the hours spent in the mud or the coming and going from who knows where to bring some kind of indispensable comfort. Some bread, a blanket, good water to drink.

And the water. It was black and smelly water that did this. The water was destructive and the water was unifying. Families, neighbours, merchants and shopkeepers and people you didn’t know and had never even waved hello to before. This is what happens during (and after) a big disaster. People come together, they want to feel good.

None of those who we today call “angels” (not without a pinch of sincerity and gratitude) had measured the weight of this solidarity. None of them had put a price on their actions. Moreover, even if they wanted it, there would be no adequate compensation. A sense of gratitude and belonging that still re-emerges in the memories shared by the witnesses on the Facebook page “Toscana Firenze 2016”. A widespread feeling of brotherhood that no one seems to have forgotten.

  • “I was 15 years old, I lived on the 5th floor in the piazza Beccaria area. There was 6 feet of water below me. How scary. People from the ground and first floor came up to us. There was so much solidarity…” (Gigliola Tomei)

 

  • “We experienced the first to the last moment. We shovelled mud for days. An experience that stays with you for life.” (Aldo Tempesti)

 

  • “I was coming back from the Careggi Hospital at night. I lived in San Donnino on the ground floor in the station area where there was 6 metres of water. I never went home. For more than 40 days I worked to look after people and things in different areas of the city. There were so many young people with a great desire to help, we were the “mud angels.” (Maraluisa Baracani)

 

  • “Together with other students, I went to save the books in the National Library.” (Luciano Caroti)

 

  • “I was there too, at the time. I was very young and lived in Lasta a Signa. The floods were also there. I spent two days on the roof with my family and ate honey and breadsticks that were brought to us on boats. Then I was part of the mud angels, I cleaned books in Florence every day, in the mud and in despair. These are experiences that you don’t forget.” (Paolo Pierini)

 

  • “We had a hotel in Piazza Indipendenza, so many displaced people came there. Such a mess.” (Giuliana Meini)

 

  • “The day after the flood, we, a small group of boys from Montecatini, were in Florence to shovel the mud. And that’s what we did for many days. We left first thing in the morning on the bus, with something our mothers made for us, and all day long we lent a hand to Florence, like so many who came from all over the world. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon there was a curfew because of the looters who tried to steal everything they could, and then they took us to the barracks to load the flooded military motorcycles onto the trucks. Then around 8 they took us back to our bus. Florence, you can’t forget it”. (Alighieri Giuseppe)

 

a cura di gianluca testa