Thank heaven at least it was summer! Camping out wasn’t really so bad. During the second half of July 1960 the people of Terni had to leave their homes and stay in tents or some kind of makeshift huts, the luckier ones staying in caravans. What forced them out of heir homes was their fear of earthquakes!
It was the night of the 18th July. Notwithstanding the holiday period, the town was still crowded seeing as people were waiting for the “steel works” to close down. The Rome olympics were due to start in just a few days.
A hot clammy night, as summer nights very often are in Terni, in Central Italy..
The earthquake was felt by everyone: it was just after 3 a.m. The people of Terni, throughout the centuries, had often had to deal with the earth moving, they were, after all, used to feeling the ground move under their feet! About half an hour later the “second shock” . Coming at around 3.37, it lasted for a full four seconds! At this point panic set in. Away from the houses! Out into the open air! The Passeggiata public gardens, the squares, the fields on the outskirts of town.. Who with just a sheet or bedspread thrown on in a hurry. Most people with untied shoes on their feet. Some in pyjamas; most in vest and pants. No time to be picky! Fear is fear! Round about 5 a.m. came the third shock. Finally, another three during the morning, while the first damage was noted.
Not much: the official bulletin mentioned the collapse of a few chimneys and a travertine cross that stood in front of St. Peter’s Church, in Corso Vecchio; some damage was done to the Banca d’Italia buildings and the Municipal building but, it was underlined they still carried the damage they suffered during the bombings of fifteen years before. There was also a person injured: a sixty-year-old pensioner jumped from his kitchen window in via Eugenio Chiesa; he probably thought it would be of no consequences seeing as he was on the first floor but, on the contrary, he broke both his legs!
A week later a total of fifty shocks had been counted, all of them strong enough to be felt by the population.
Despite the worries, and the fears from all sectors of “authorities”, the town stayed quite calm: public services carried on as usual, while a slight change was registered, -who knows why- in the sale of refrigerators! On the other hand, there were still those who, despite everything, went to the cinema! Very few however, on average about thirty tickets a night were sold.
Then, suddenly, the earth returned to normal. On the 30th July, the danger was officially “almost” over. On 1st August newspapers announced that there had been no more new shocks for 48 hours. But then the 1st of August had arrived so everyone was off to the sea!