Ramona, one of the members of Meeting Halfway, has decided to share her experience with us in the daily struggle against what has become our worst nightmare: the Coronavirus pandemic.
Two months have passed since the first case of Coronavirus in Codogno. I still remember the feeling of disbelief when all the newspapers reported on the front page ‘‘First case of Coronavirus in Italy’’. None of us were ready, no one really knew what was going to happen shortly thereafter. Personally, I was building my future that day, but at that point I didn’t know that I would have to wait for it. Now, many days have passed since that fateful day, February 21, 2020, the disbelief and initial uncertainty have been overcome and the time has come to draw conclusions.
By Ramona Di Bella / 5.05.2020
During these months we have uncovered a previously unseen solidarity. For the first time, the whole of Italy has come together in a single country-wide embrace, without distinctions between the North and the South of the Peninsula. For the first time, we have all felt part of a single large territory as together we try to defend it. Closed in our homes, we have looked out from the balcony to sing together, to feel united despite the physical distance.
None of us will forget that sensation, those emotions we felt when we saw our neighbours chanting the Italian anthem: noi siamo da secoli calpesti, derisi. Perché non siam popolo, perché siam divisi. Raccolgaci un’unica Bandiera, una Speme. Di fonderci insieme, già l’ora suonò (We were for centuries downtrodden, derided. Because we are not one people, because we are divided. Let one flag, one hope gather us all. The hour has struck for us to unite). For the first time, after so many years, we have found ourselves united in one big battle: the battle to save the lives of the people we care about most. A struggle that does not use weapons, but the love of life.
But quarantine didn’t just teach us to be Italian. We have seen nature reborn: the water of the Venice canals is now tinged with a blue that the locals have never seen before; the animals have returned to live in the spaces they had abandoned for a long time; smog levels have gone down; experts have indulged in the pleasure of the sound emanating from the planet.
Along with the lockdown also came a sudden feeling of helplessness in front of barriers. Many people originally from Southern Italy, who live in the North for work or study tried in vain to return to their homes; many others, on the other hand, voluntarily chose to stay in the North to avoid the spread of the virus in areas that, unfortunately, could not have managed the emergency. I belong to this second category: I was born in Sicily, but I moved to Turin to complete my studies. In my head the words that I said to my parents when it all started still resound, when they asked me to come back to them for fear of seeing their own daughter among the thousands of infected people: «I can’t, but I am doing it for you».
It would be untrue to say that I was never afraid; when the only noise you can hear on the street are the ambulance sirens and when you start to discover that sadly, people are dying alone in intensive care units. As the days passed, we all found ourselves silently observing the sad images of the Bergamo area: entire convoys of military vehicles transporting the remains of those who had lost their lives elsewhere, because there, in Bergamo, there was no more space. Because in the whole of northern Italy there was no more space.
We were left with time for reflecting and for ourselves. We have learned to set aside our selfishness for the good of all. Whole cities, in the aftermath of the beginning of the pandemic, woke up completely covered with post-it notes with the words ‘‘Everything will be fine’’: because man’s strength lies in our ability to be a community; because we have always been taught that ‘‘union is strength’’. And together, we will get through it.
Suddenly, there is no time for futile gossip or political disputes. Simply, everything has changed. How can anyone be indifferent to the rebirth of nature? Even those who had not yet focused on the damage we were doing to the world, can now see it for the first time with their own eyes.
It is for this reason that there is no turning back. It is for this reason that we can’t look the other way. Because when this is all over and we can get back to our lives, we will have to remember in order to not repeat our mistakes, and to build a better world. But above all, we will have to make sure that we, as the human race, work better together with the world. How many people will have to die before we understand that everything will not be fine until we stop letting ourselves be carried away by the waves of individualism?
We keep telling ourselves that ‘‘Everything will be fine’’, but will we be able to make sure that it will be forever?