Learning When To Run

 **Writer’s Note** 

October of last year, a massive flood and mudslide covered one of my beloved villages in Italy.  Since that time I have been working to help raise awareness and money for the extensive restoration and rebuild.  I am currently writing a book about the village’s history, beauty and the disaster.  I will be donating 100% of the proceeds once published. 

I have been asked why I would spend so much of my time and effort for a place half the world away.

This is my response.

When I was 15 years old a man named Garvin saved my life when he didn’t have to.

I was 4,000 miles away from home and my family when the earthquake hit Costa Rica.  My friends and I stood dumbstruck on that beach trying to comprehend what had just happened.  I can remember grabbing our video camera to film the ocean in its eerie stillness.  I was naive to the pending danger and oblivious of the power that was to follow those quietly receding waters.  From out of the jungle came shouting.

‘Run!  Run girls.  Run!’

A local named Garvin, with his dark bare chest and long dreadlocks haphazardly whipping behind him, was sprinting towards us at full speed.

‘Run NOW!’ he commanded.

My reverie was broken.  The rushing wave of water suddenly in focus.  I did not know the word tsunami at the time, but I certainly understood the fear.  We dropped everything and fled for the safety of the jungle, Garvin pushing us on from behind.  I was first up the steep embankment and several feet into the trees before I dared turn around.  I watched as the water overtook the last of my companions, the wave rising up and over her head.  Garvin reached down and plucked her to safety.  She was shaken and drenched, but she was alive.  We all were.

That afternoon I experienced four new things:  the power of an earthquake measuring 7.4 from which I was less than 10 miles from the epicenter, the unrelenting force of the ocean knocked off balance, the comfort of a pull of whiskey straight from the bottle and the kind selfless bravery of a stranger.  Garvin.  One man who could have looked the other way and sought safety for himself.  Instead, he took a risk to save three others who were nothing more than visitors in his land.

The beach after the earthquake and tsunami.
Courtesy of Steve Casimuro

Over 20 years later on October 25, 2011 I woke to bits and pieces of news about a devastating flood and mudslide to an Italian village that had long ago captured a piece of my heart.  Vernazza.  Just the name rolling off my tongue makes me smile, evoking warm memories of lazy days and deep conversations running well into the night.  The thought of my special place trapped in mud was unbearable.  To make matters worse there was nothing I could do to help from across the ocean.  I wanted to pick up a shovel but instead I settled for this pen.  I began to write.  To write of what was, what is and what could be.  I found I was not alone.  So many others shared my bond and reached out to help.

This became more than a book.  This became my love story to Vernazza.  For the heroes, the brave, the fallen and the stubbornly resilient.  This is about kindness and beauty; this is about past history and new beginnings.  This is also my chance to pay forward for a sacrifice made many years ago on a Costa Rican beach.

My hope is to move you, to inspire you and give you courage.  Courage in your own life to make a difference and to understand that no support is too little nor act too small.  We have all been saved in some way by someone at sometime in our lives.  The time has now come to be the brave, the one to pluck the suffering from the water.

The one to yell ‘RUN!’

Cinque Terre
Beautiful Vernazza before the flood.
Cinque Terre
Water raging through the harbor square.

Joining up again with the fabulous writers at yeah write. Click the button below to read some truly wonderful writers and don’t forget to return on Thursday to vote for your five favorite posts.

Copyright 2012  Andi Brown  Once in a Lifetime Travel

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About the author: Andi Brown

I am passionate about helping people create vacations that are perfect for them through personalized travel planning, itinerary review and small experience focused tours. My services put an emphasis on the experience of Italy, getting my clients away from the tourist crowds and into the heart and soul of the people. I believe in working with family run businesses at great locations with attention to the details. If you can dream it I can make it happen.

34 comments to “Learning When To Run”

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  1. christina - 2012-03-20 at 10:52 am Reply

    incredible. absolutely incredible story. and those photos? WOW. thank you for sharing this.

  2. margieinitaly - 2012-03-20 at 10:58 am Reply

    This is a very moving story and so well written! Thank you!

  3. Veronica Viggiano (Ronnie) - 2012-03-20 at 11:12 am Reply

    And we were in Vernazza on October 25th and were saved by three men from Vernazza who lead us off the train platform as the gas tank exploded and cars, trucks, mud and rocks rushed down the street beneath us. They then lead us over the train tracks, over a fence, through a family’s apartment and down into the church. They were also yelling, “RUN” to us. We will be forever thankful and I can understand your emotions in regards to Garvin. I look forward to the publication of your book and enjoy your blogs, recipes and traveling hints. I forward them to my brother and his wife who were traveling with us. Ronnie

  4. From a Tuscan Villa - 2012-03-20 at 11:35 am Reply

    A beautiful, inspiring piece. Good luck with the book.

  5. Mama and the City - 2012-03-20 at 3:50 pm Reply

    Those moments are very frightening. It has happened back home too and in those desperate times it’s when you remember to be human and give a s**t for another human being. Some people loose their homes, others their lives. But at the end, that strength is what makes the difference to change things around.

  6. Jackie (@notwifezilla) - 2012-03-20 at 6:41 pm Reply

    Wow! To have survived an experience like that is amazing. I can only imagine how with each similar experience in the present, those past memories resurface. I can think of no better motivation for a project than this.

  7. Mayor Gia - 2012-03-20 at 7:41 pm Reply

    Wow, what a close call and crazy story. People like Garvin are amazing

  8. Jessica@Team Rasler - 2012-03-20 at 8:13 pm Reply

    I was totally caught up in that story, hoping that all of you made it out of the tsunami’s path. What a beautiful way you’ve chosen to pay forward his kindness.

  9. Emily - 2012-03-20 at 10:13 pm Reply

    Maybe because last year’s earthquake/tsunami in Japan are still so fresh in my mind, this post actually made me cry. I felt like I was running across that beach right alongside you. And oh, oh Garvin. Bless him.

    I think it’s wonderful that you’ve chosen to honor his courage this way, by crafting this tribute to an Italian village. After all, it’s all the same world. And we’re not limited to ONLY loving our homeland.

    This was wonderful.

  10. Debra Kolkka - 2012-03-20 at 11:32 pm Reply

    I hope lovely Vernazza is back on its feet soon. I am hoping to visit in the next month to see for myself. Good luck with the book.

  11. suzy016 - 2012-03-21 at 9:57 am Reply

    i have similar memories of vernazza – drinking prosecco while looking out the window at that incomparable blue-blue water, the clothes drying on the line against the pink stucco building, tiny shops and shopkeepers and the little blue-and-white church with the smooth, worn pews… glad to hear you’re doing so much to help. best -s

  12. Our Kitchen Inventions - 2012-03-21 at 1:32 pm Reply

    Being lover’s of all things Cinque Terre, it was amazing to see the videos of what happened in October…sad, tragic, and heartbreaking for the local residents. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your own rescue, and you are to be commended for taking pen to paper for a great cause!

  13. Runnermom-jen - 2012-03-21 at 2:15 pm Reply

    Oh my goodness! I can’t even imagine how scary that must have been!! And what a truly wonderful thing you are doing…really.
    Your writing is beautiful…it makes me want to visit Italy, and I hate to fly, so that’s really saying something 🙂

  14. Michelle Longo - 2012-03-21 at 7:05 pm Reply

    This was very moving. Thank you for sharing this.

  15. Lenore Diane - 2012-03-21 at 8:00 pm Reply

    Holy smokes, I am shaking just thinking about witnessing a tsunami. Wow. Garvin is/was an angel. Thank you for sharing this story, and thank you for helping the community.
    Your last paragraph really brought it home – this speaks to all of us, as we either have a Garvin or we’ve been a Garvin. Sometimes you don’t know you’ve saved a life.

  16. That Unique* Weblog - 2012-03-21 at 8:05 pm Reply

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that a Costarricense would go out of his way. It’s the most caring and human place I’ve visited. Thank you for reminding me of that! And it’s a wonderful thing you’re doing for the Italian village. Great work.

  17. twoblackdoggies - 2012-03-22 at 12:35 am Reply

    Amazing, so glad you survived to tell your story and inspire others to help Vernazza. Best of luck with the book!

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