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Remembering L'Aquila, one year later

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L'Aquila, 2009. Photo by Rebecca Heyl.

One year ago today, residents of Italy's Abruzzo region were woken in the early morning hours by an earthquake that shook the very foundations of their lives. Centuries-old walls trembled, crumbled and fell -- particularly in the historic center of L'Aquila -- and with them families, educations and careers were torn asunder.

The magnitude 6.3 quake resulted in hundreds of deaths, more than 1,500 injured and the displacement of tens of thousands. At the University of L'Aquila, administration buildings and residence halls collapsed, with eight students dying in just one dormitory. The academic institution, home to 27,000 registered students before the quake, was ultimately forced to close its doors.

But there is no darkness without light. And, in the weeks that followed, the Italian American response to this disaster shone brightly on our cultural cousins across the Atlantic. With NIAF taking the lead, a coalition of Italian American organizations, universities and individuals worked tirelessly to raise funds for affected victims and communities. Soon the U.S. Department of State, the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Consular Network expressed interest in working with us as well.

Ultimately, the NIAF/Abruzzo Relief Fund raised more than $790,000 for relief efforts, while a public-private partnership between NIAF and the State Department helped bring 52 displaced University of L'Aquila students to the U.S. to continue their studies at American universities.

Today NIAF remembers both those whose lives were inexorably altered on April 6, 2009 and those who helped provide a generous Italian American response to the tragedy.


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Last summer, Boston photographer Rebecca Heyl traveled to L'Aquila to document both the earthquake's devastation and reconstruction efforts. Her work appeared in a photo essay, "L'Aquila: The Eagle Is Wounded," in NIAF's Ambassador magazine, Vol. 21, No. 1. Click here to view more of her powerful images, like the one that appears above.