YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The death toll from the earthquake in Italy has been rising all day Wednesday, and each new piece of video hits the heart of every Italian-American in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys.
Central Italy, where the earthquake hit, is a tourist area and a large number of vacationers were there for the end of summer.
Aldo D’Amato, of Poland, had a busy day of Skyping with relatives in Italy on Wednesday. He wanted to know as much as possible about the earthquake.
“It’s all ruined, the whole place. The town ain’t there no more,” he said.
D’Amato grew up in Sulmona, a town in the mountains. He left in 1955 when he was 9 years old, and took an eight-day boat ride to reach the U.S.
Watching the rescue efforts on TV reminds him of 33 years on the job for Ohio Edison.
“I’ve been through all the hurricane, power outages, I know what it feels like for the people there.”
The country is six hours ahead of Ohio and just before the sun went down there, an 8-year-old girl was saved from the rubble.
With each person that’s pulled from the ruins, Italians, including those who live in Youngstown, get even more strength. John Rossetti knows the rubble is in a tough area for heavy equipment to reach.
“It’s hard when you have loved ones thousands of miles away and you’re not sure if they’re buried under rubble, alive or dead. It’s hard, it hurts a lot,” he said.
Rossetti has a 97-year-old aunt and 100 cousins living in Italy. He learned Wednesday afternoon that they are all okay.
Rossetti is also part of the group behind the Youngstown Italian Fest, which happened three weeks ago. The event would have been the perfect backdrop for a fundraising opportunity, one the Italian Heritage Foundation may consider Thursday night during its next meeting.
“We’re going to sit down and see what we can do to help out in any way we can. Donations, monetary or prayer, to the whole region,” Rossetti said. “I know in Mahoning Valley we have such a strong contingent of Italian-Americans who are proud of their heritage, and I know we’re going to band together to help them any way we can in America.”
Less than 20 years ago, there were over 100,000 Italian-Americans living in the Youngstown area.
AT&T announced Wednesday that it will waive charges for all calls and texts from the U.S. to Italy through Friday. This includes landline, texting and Postpaid or GoPhone calls. For more information, visit AT&T’s website.