Reportage and Documentary 2019
Mauro De Bettio
THE WALL OF SILENCE
The 1963 Landslide of the Vajont Dam.
At 22:39 on October 9, 1963, a 2 km long landslide of more than 270 million cubic meters of rock and earth breaks off the Toc mountain. The roar stops the hands of the clock. Facing the window, the pastor of Casso, observes the light of the full moon fall upon the wood.Trees, fields, animals, woods, stables and men trying to tame the wild beasts. An entire world begins to slip down the valley at 100 km per hour, 500 meters of descent and then the crash. The displaced dam water, now, flies high above the church bell tower. It forms a 250 meters high wave that finds a route towards the valley, overtopping the dam, that overlooks the village.
The sun rises and the image is ghastly. The haze of dry mud now clears and uncovers a lunar desert. There is nothing left. Everything has disappeared. Two thousand people, yesterday they were here, today they are one with the earth. A blinding flash, a terrifying rumble and a small mountain village, all sucked into the huge flowing whirlpool, have been attributed, for years, to a sad occurrence caused by a natural disaster, like an earthquake or a flood. A truth, unfortunately, distorted. There have been so many the lies and the dirty manoeuvres.
50 are the survivors. Everything was done to take away their dignity, to convince them that nothing was due to them because no one could be held responsible for a natural catastrophe. They were marginalized, left to be annihilated by their devastating pain. They had nothing left to remember: the wave of death had taken away everything. The wave has broken their future and their life projects, leaving them socially and culturally to themselves.
But the greatest protagonist of this painful and infinite catastrophe is the silence. It always has been and still is. That silence that wounds the dead, the relatives, the survivors, the rescuers and all those who came after. The silence of political power and those who wanted to clash with nature. The desired and silent silence, that was convenient. A silence that covered what had already been buried by the mud. Still, the silence of a family, mine. For them, as for me, it’s a path, to get rid of a nightmare that began on that October 9th. A path to start talking again, to trust and to love.