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Emotional aftershocks in Italy

As Italians mourn, experts say many modern buildings were too weak to withstand Monday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake.

The coffin of 24-year-old Giuseppe Chiavaroli, one of the victims of Monday's earthquake, is carried after his funeral in Loreto Aprutino 81 miles north of L'Aquila April 8, 2009. Italy is beginning burying some of the 280 people killed in medieval towns flattened by a quake, while rescuers hampered by aftershocks hunted for people who may be buried alive in rubble. (Giampiero Sposito/Reuters)

L’AQUILA, Italy — On a desolate road that leads to Fossa, a few miles from the epicenter of the earthquake that shook central Italy on Monday, a family sits on garden chairs outside their house. Two days after the panic, the Bonanni family is anything but calm.

The head of the family, Piero Bonanni, a 52-year-old businessman of noble lineage, stands up and walks to the entrance of his villa. Putting his finger on the iron gate he says, “my gate acts as my seismology machine. You can feel the vibration on the iron.”

Bonanni has been waiting for firefighters to come and assess his property. Only they can tell him whether it is safe enough for his family to go back inside.

When the Bonannis fled the earthquake on Monday, they left behind their 16th century apartment, and with it valuable Renaissance frescoes and countless memories. After the 6.3-magnitude earthquake destroyed that home in the center of L’Aquila, their house in the Fossa countryside became their only option. For now, the Bonannis live in a camper.

But Piero Bonanni considers himself lucky — everyone in his family survived the quake.
“All we thought about was saving our lives,” Bonanni said.

He still does not know the condition of his property in the center of L’Aquila. Firefighters sealed off the area where irreplaceable damage was done to multiple buildings, among them the Church of Santa Maria del Suffragio, an 18th century building that lost its dome when the quake hit. Throughout the Abruzzo region, the damage to art and ancient architecture is incalculable.

In the Italian town of Loreto Aprutino, a two-hour drive from the epicenter of the earthquake, the 12th century church of Santa Maria in Piano is intact. But the shadow of the catastrophe arrived in a coffin.

Inside was the body of 24-year-old Giuseppe Chiavaroli, who was visiting his girlfriend in L’Aquila the night of the quake.

Hiding their tears behind designer sunglasses, Chiavaroli’s friends mourned the tragic fate of a promising soccer player as the jersey-draped coffin was carried from the church into the piazza — where almost 2,000 people came to support the only family in town that was so painfully affected by the disaster.