Experience: I was driving over a bridge when it collapsed | life and style

In the summer of 2018, life was so good. My fiancé Eugeniu and I had bought a house near Naples. We decided to go on vacation to Provence, where he had proposed six years earlier, and try for a baby.

We had planned to go there by plane, but we changed our minds and took the car. My teenage son from a previous marriage was supposed to come, but he ended up staying home to study.

About 700 km after the start of the trip, we crossed Genoa. The weather was great – then it suddenly changed. I had never seen the sky become so black; the rain was torrential. We went through a tunnel and came out on the Morandi bridge. I had never been there before, but I now know that the overpass opened in 1967 and was over 1000 meters long. Visibility was poor and we could barely see a meter in front of us.

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Out of nowhere, we felt the strange sensation of the car heaving at the front. The next second, we fell into nothingness. We dove 45 meters into our tin box of a car. On the way down we were battered by rubble and I felt my heart leap into my throat. After that, there was total silence.

Our car ended up landing on a road below the bridge; we were crushed inside the wreckage under colossal concrete slabs. We never lost consciousness, but I was in shock. I hadn’t understood what was happening and I was still thinking about my vacation. I had no idea the bridge had collapsed – thought it might have been an earthquake.

We honked in hopes someone could hear us. At first we screamed, then we stopped because we didn’t want to lose our strength and pass out. We tried to call an ambulance, but there was no signal under the rubble.

I knew I was hurt – my leg was bleeding and I couldn’t move it – but because of the adrenaline, I didn’t feel any pain. Later I found out that a disc in my spine had exploded and my leg was broken. Eugeniu had broken his neck.

Rescuers eventually found us as they rescued a man whose van was hanging from another section of the bridge above us. We had been under rubble for four hours by the time we were pulled out, and the firefighter covered my face with his jacket so I couldn’t see the devastation. It was only afterwards, when I saw it on television, that I realized the extent of the drama: 43 people had died. The back of our car was crushed by falling concrete. If my son had been with us, he would not have survived.

At the hospital, we decided to get married as soon as possible – the tragedy made us realize that we never wanted to be without each other. The doctors were worried that I couldn’t walk anymore, but I can, but not very well. I was a beautician and Eugeniu was a hairdresser – we still have our salon, but because of our injuries I can no longer work there.

I had to accept that I am no longer the same as before. As we fell, the noise around us was terrible. Now I can’t stand sudden noises. I dream of things falling. I saw a psychologist, but there is nothing to know; we know what happened and where this trauma came from. I just hope that in time my mind will put it aside.

It was a painful decision, but we didn’t try to have a baby after the tragedy. I couldn’t pick them up and give them a hug. I gave Eugeniu the chance to leave, I said: “You are a handsome young man, you don’t want an elderly woman with a disability. You can find someone else. He said, “Well, then you don’t understand how I feel about you.”

The best thing that came out of the tragedy is that I appreciate life a lot more. Before, we focused on making money. When we went on vacation, I had some nice clothes and shoes in my suitcase, and they were all buried under the rubble. Maybe it was a sign that those things didn’t really matter. What matters is the family.

The trial to find out who was responsible will continue in September. I will be there to talk about my experience and seek justice for the families of the victims, whom we now know quite well. Even if it won’t bring their son or daughter back, it might give them the satisfaction that justice has been served. We do not want this tragedy to be forgotten.

As said to Ellie Purcell

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