In case some of my blog readers were still unaware, our pretty little Fiat 500 ‘Cinquina’ – Sergeant pepper vintage i.e., fifty years old – is, alas, no more.
Hit by a T. I. R. on the night of May the first on the rear left mudguard, it was pushed over on the right and skidded to one side of a stretch of autostrada that was in a tunnel in the Apennines. The T. I. R. did stop some distance down the tunnel. The driver had no option: there are video cameras throughout this stretch of road – but didn’t even step outside his vehicle to see how we were.
Thanks to Sandra’s foresight (she was driving and holds an advanced driving license together with years of driving experience, especially with our Cinquina) she realised that it was possible to extricate ourselves from the car through the roll-back soft roof. Goodness knows what would have happened to us if the car had actually rolled onto the roof or not been catapulted into the emergency lane…
We phoned emergency services and stood trembling by the side of the autostrada for what seemed a long time (although it wasn’t more than around ten minutes). The police arrived and halted the traffic while they took photographs and measurements of the accident scene. The ambulance came and strapped me onto a bed. Sandra was content just to take a seat in the vehicle which travelled alarmingly fast.
The venue for us was at the Ospedale Maggiore, Bologna. Tests, including x-rays and blood samples, were taken from us and fortunately, apart from concussion, a cut lip in Sandra and scratches and bruises for both of us we were declared out of immediate danger and fit to leave the hospital by morning.
The following day we had to get to San Benedetto Val di Sambro, the scene of the awful terrorist attack on a train at the start of the tunnel there in 1974 which left twelve dead including the courageous railway man, Silver Sirotti, who helped in saving many people before he too succumbed to the flames. Indeed, in San Benedetto station there is a plaque to his memory and his award of a Gold medal for civilian valour (equivalent of the UK’s George Cross) with the wording:
Controllore in servizio, in occasione del criminale attentato al treno Italicus non esitava a lanciarsi, munito di estintore, nel vagone ov’era avvenuta l’esplosione per soccorrere i passeggeri della vettura in fiamme. Nel nobile tentativo, immolava la giovane vita ai più alti ideali di umana solidarietà. Esempio fulgido di eccezionale sprezzo del pericolo e incondizionato attaccamento al dovere, spinti fino all’estremo sacrificio. Alla memoria.
— 14 maggio 1975
Sirotti was just 24 years old when he died.
At San Benedetto we made our dichiarazione or witness statement to the police who’d come to our rescue.
The following day we managed it to Sasso Marconi to see our poor car which had been transported there by a branch of ACI (the Italian car rescue association) of which we are members.
It was a very sad moment for us to say goodbye to a car, my christmas present to Sandra in 2008, which had taken us to so many beautiful places in Italy and beyond. In particular, we remember Sardinia in 2009, Corsica in 2012, La Maremma and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. We bid the wreck of the car adieu, at the same time remembering that a guardian angel had prevented the same act from being administered over us by those who care for us. That Cinquina was such a good friend to us and we had such happy memories travelling in it. I believe that in some mysterious way our Cinquina had sacrificed itself to help save us just like that guardian angel.
(La nostra bella Cinquina in tempi più felici)
It was an immense relief when we finally got home to Longoio and found our cats, fish and ducks ready to greet us and, of course, waiting to be fed!
Grateful thanks are due to the Italian emergency services, the police and, especially, to the country’s great public transport system.
PS As the Roman poet says: ““Pulvis et umbra sumus.”