Earthquake and bombs in Italy: An eyewitness report from Jasmina Tesanovic

[Video Link.]

A weekend of fear and mourning in Italy.

Early this Sunday morning, an earthquake struck near Bologna: at least six killed (ceramic workers, and a hundred year old person), and big material damage in the region. The US Geological Survey heard the tremor: a magnitude-6.0 quake struck at 4:04 a.m. Sunday between Modena and Mantova, about 35 kilometers north-northwest of Bologna. Civil defence says that the quake was the strongest in the region since the 1300s. And the damaged building are valuable historical sites. In Italy such loss goes without saying.

We felt the earthquake in Torino, 260 kilometers from Modena at dawn. The apartment building shook and the late-night party people yelped with alarm in the streets. As I write this we hear the building crack and we tremble: I am checking on twitter. Yes, it' s an aftershock at 15.19.

Not unusual for Italy to deal with deadly earthquakes, but what comes afterward can be nearly as troublesome: state neglect and real estate speculation. Those who are not under earth may have the skies as a roof forever! The last big earthquake in Aquila in 2009 speaks about that.

On Saturday morning, a bomb exploded in front of a high school, killing a 16 year old girl and injuring several other students seriously. This school bears the name of an antimafia activist, but it seems this was a terror attack. As if this distinction mattered: what cruel frame of mind, what political activism wants to bomb teenage schoolgirls? What is this message supposed to convey?

Fear and anger among citizens: standings all over Italian towns in solidarity with bombing victims in the southern Italian town Brindisi, and loud opposition to the reign of terror of anonymous bombs against civilians. The "strategy of tension" was notorious during the "lead years" in the seventies and eighties.

Italy in these days is targeted as the next country after Greece to be tumbled out of the euro zone into severe recession and collapse. The new Monti government, struggling to undo Berlusconi's long unruly reign in mere months, is imposing grim economic measures. Monti was a banker, and now is a prime minister: the trade unions blame his approach as inspired by and for the financiers rather than the population. Even Italian lighthouses auctioned off to tackle public debt pile.

"They stand on imposing headlands with spectacular views of isolated bays and white sandy beaches, some of the most picturesque in the Mediterranean." (Telegraph, UK)

The rate of unemployment among young people is 40 percent.

Italian flags are at half staff for three days of mourning. The international press has been reporting on the school killing as well as the earthquake: the social networks are full of useful news and active support for concrete initiatives. This awareness doesn't stop the Italian earth from shaking, the euro from falling, or criminals from killing the innocent, but it's a vital sign in our modest domain of life.

Jasmina Tesanovic


  1. For the curious, the people in the video are saying fairly typical post-earthquake things. The earth shook, these buildings have fallen down, I ran out into the street with my children. Very sad. Best of luck to my Italian amici in these trying times.

  2. Actually nobody knows who and why  attacked the school. It could be anything, literally. Some say it was the mafia, some say it was the intelligence, some say it was the jealous boyfriend of the girl killed. But nobody knows yet. Period.

    Calling this a “terror attack” is just preposterous right now.

    Also, it is not true that people loose everything forever after an earthquake in Italy. It happened, but not all the time. You also have to consider that most of the towns and cities in Italy have been built even 700 years ago. You can’t fix a medieval building just like this. When you have hundreds of such buildings falling down, it’s quite complicated to build entire districts or towns again. 

    Every time I read an article of Ms Tesanovic on BB, I am impressed by the level of bias she is able to put into it. Maybe American readers don’t realise it, but she is extremely biased.

    I mean, who on Earth could possibly link an hearthquake, a bomb, the political unrest of the Seventies, Berlusconi and the present Prime Minister in the same article? 

    1. I for one would like to ‘like’ this more than once:

      “Actually nobody knows who and why  attacked the school. It could be anything, literally. Some say it was the mafia, some say it was the intelligence, some say it was the jealous boyfriend of the girl killed. But nobody knows yet. Period.”

      For the rest, I cannot comment.

  3. I wonder why you boingboing people link italian news from Jasmina. Her tone is usually sad, Italian-hating, and catastrophistic. I am not an optimistic (or opportunistic) fool, but I don’t bear her being so toxic.

    For example, “[…] the damaged building are valuable historical sites. In Italy such loss goes without saying.” This is both incorrect and unfair, our region (Emilia-Romagna) is a welfare excellence and a world-class example; we usually chose our government wisely: the major of my city (Forli) is an History Faculty Professor, and such losses doesn’t pass unnoticed to his eyes, and to my fellow citizens neither.

    Likewise her totally superficial comparison between L’Aquila and Bologna earthquakes: we are speaking of 308 vs 6 deaths, and although we mourn them one by one, these events are apart by two orders of magnitude (even if the Richter magnitude was roughly the same).

    And this recession, and the fear of, are slowly eroding our hopes, but Italy is not Greece, and really no one can say how this is going to end, neither Jasmina. 

    I am too angry to comment the second part of her article, regarding the Brindisi school, so I will restrain myself until my head will cool down. 

    1. Perhaps you misunderstood “goes without saying”, which means something so obvious that it does not need to be pointed out, not something that people don’t talk about.

      Jasmina is not saying that the authorities don’t care about the loss of historic buildings, just that earthquakes in Italy often damage historic sites.

      1. Thanks GagHalfrunt, you’re right. This don’t change basically the criticism to her post in the mentioned section: we’re not all the same, don’t store us all in the same folder.

  4. why don’t you expatriates, so much in love with idillic memories of your beloved Italy, never come here to live and see italians on the ground speak for themselves! you would understand my tone much better and even find it mild! I am too upset myself to engage in a polemics with you!

    1. I don’t think this kind of ad personam arguments are helping the discussion. 

      This is about the content of your article, not about the reason why I don’t live in Italy nor your current mood.

      Unless you meant that your article is based on your mood rather than the facts, which would be an interesting statement for a journalist…

    2. Maybe you are too upset to engage reading before reply: I live in Italy (Forli, see above), after 30+ yrs spent in Bologna, so I am an “Italian on the ground speaking for myself”; and again, I agree with Tommy: your argument is not relevant for the discussion.

      1. I guess she just had a look at my blog and saw that I live in Germany. But she mixed up our comments, so we both turned into expatriates that have idillic memories of Italy.

        1. great guys, the two of you sound just like one voice unisono! wherever you are!
          my arguments, my essays, my choice, you have your blogs your opinions…btw i love your photo Tommy, makes my mood better!

  5. Wow…. Jasmina’s articles always seems to bring out a lot of anger and resentment… she must be doing something right.  But as always, I find you thought provoking and informative on the history and politics of the Balkans (and adjacent regions, like Italy).  Keep up the good work, Jasmina!

  6. Speaking as an Italian journalist  living in Italy, I’d like to add my two cents to this comments thread.

    * An error by the reporter
    “Strategy of tension” is a term with a very specific meaning, which is not simply ‘let’s bomb something’, but indicates a state-sanctioned fake terrorist bombing with the purpose of scaring the people into forgetting other, more destabilizing, political events. In this case, Italy is going through a period of local elections which are considered a test for the upcoming 2013 central government election. Since a new, very independent, young and possibly non-corrupted party is rapidly gaining ground, it is quite possible that this latest tragedy was in fact part of such a strategy.

    * A manipulation by the posters
    Mr. Angelo is using in his posts the very specific wording employed by the supporters of ex-premier Berlusconi, who is notorious for using media manipulation in his favour. While it is possible that Angelo is just a spontaneous fan of the man (currently under trial for about a dozen different crimes including child prostitution, tax fraud and misuse of authority for personal gain), his comments should better be considered in view of said upcoming elections.

    * The “anti-Italy” slant
    While mr. Biavati is correct in saying that a part of the Italian society is just as civil and educated as any other country, the admittedly uncompromising view of mrs. Tesanovic is in fact shared by the large majority of the Italian people. However, it is not a form of hate towards our own country, but the tragic realization (supported by countless trials and evidences, including a slew of phone recordings between politicians which are being released right in these days) that the entire Italian government and ruling class is deeply corrupted, and that the citizens have absolutely no power of changing anything. Cases in point: elections where we can’t actually decide the person to represent us, referendums being ignored, popular laws being upturned. It’s all in the news, and no opinion.

    Thank you for reading.

    1. I lol’d to this comment, really. What do local elections have to do with the article we are commenting? 

      And what kind of ‘specific words’ am I using, given the fact that I am not even writing in my own language? And how could I share such words with Berlusconi’s supporters? As far as I know they speak in Italian when doing their berlusconish stuff.

      Paranoia is not good for your health :-)

  7. Thank you “mr. info” for your contribution, and thank you to partially support my point of view. Jasmina lacks objectiveness in her interpretation, i.e. when she argues that there will be another real estate speculation after the earthquake(*). 

    She is not new to similar “scappate”: for example, she wrote that Italy was “on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder” on the past Jan, 17 (source: BB). Four months are past, and I saw no bankruptcy nor social disorder. And I live in Italy, not in a My Little Pony House.

    Possibly will come bankruptcy, or social disorder, or them both: technically, given enough time, this will happen in every country of the World… Jasmina, you may be right, but I don’t need another bad omen prophet, thanks. 

    Be uncompromising as you like, but I would like also to read from you: the way you suggest for the citizens to change their powerless state, or the way you feel something tiny change for the better. There’s no hope for Italy in your column, and I simply cannot accept it.

    (*): I cannot guarantee you that the speculation seen after L’Aquila earthquake will not repeat itself, but having different “boundary conditions” (less damage, less casualties, a different landscape), it is likely that the problem will have a different solution.

  8. Anyone remember Operation Gladio: English MI6 and CIA arranged bombings in Bologna Italy to blame it on the “leftists”. They decided to tear the flesh of some 50 children so that the public would react.

      1.  Operation Gladio was in effect from the end of WWII til the fall of the berlin wall.. basically.

        1.  I figured it was Cold War, just wasn’t sure if there was a specific period it was in effect. Seems like Rosin was referring to a particular event though, out of this larger operation?  I was curious about specific dates on that (or rough dates, year or what have you). 

          I’ll have to read up on this some more.  I wonder if there are any good books on this? I’ll have to ask around.


    1. Your comment oversimplifies the facts.

      Gladio was the Italian name of the NATO operation called ‘Stay Behind’. Its purpose was to organise and maintain a resistance in case of Soviet invasion of Europe.

      We know that members of this organisation were involved in terrorist attacks during the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. We don’t know precisely to what extent though.

      The bombing in Bologna are still an obscure matter that has not been completely solved yet.

      1.  I think that Rosin’s point was that the CIA and M16 were involved in these things, not that they were the only ones involved. There always seems to be a public part and then a submerged part to these operations.  The CIA had it’s hands in many pies during the cold war, in fact in almost all the pies.  It’s kind of what they did.  Turn over a rock, find a CIA agent. I don’t think that is controversial in the least.

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