20 years have passed and it is still not easy for me to talk about what happened. In fact, I hesitated a lot before writing these lines. I can see now that I was never very good at dealing with the subject. For a long time I was evasive of the answers, I tried to change the subject, it was the door that I didn’t want to open. Now I realize that it doesn’t make any sense to shut up. It’s not that I have a lot to say, I don’t want to leave it inside.
On the night of March 4, 2001, I was at my parents’ house. At the time I was studying in Porto and, like every Sunday evening, I looked up a book that was waiting for sleep. When the phone rang, the news arrived alarmed, but without much content. Something had happened in Entre-os-Rios, it wasn’t clear what. My uncle was on a bus, had made the “excursion” and had not yet arrived, was everything okay?
I went into an uproar, went to the neighboring village, where the national road passed and the news came faster. There in Oliveira do Arda everyone had the same feeling, but no one had much information. On the radio it was said that the bridge had fallen, that it could have taken a bus into the abyss. You couldn’t communicate with anyone, the cell phones didn’t work – and they didn’t have them today either. And the news was so absurd that no one could believe it. Cell phones were tried again, the areas without a network were (and are) many in that area, that could be the problem. But nothing, nothing and time went on.
A bus came, right? They were not. I had made another “excursion”, I don’t remember where I came from. And it was empty. We have all tried to escape this reality. We knew exactly who had gone on the trip, in the small countries it is like that, everyone knows each other by name, it was impossible what they suggested. The world also collapsed at our feet. 34 of the 59 victims were from the Raiva parish, from which we come.
I returned to my village of Serradelo and went straight to my grandparents’ house, which also belonged to my uncle. Panic had started. How can you tell a father that he lost his son? “That is not natural,” replied my grandfather, no father should live longer than his children. And no body to watch over. This pain kills too, it killed my grandfather. He gave up and died a few days later.
My uncle Virgílio was one of the pillars of the family. In his youth he had been a formwork carpenter near Porto. The greatest pride of the time was the rebuilding of the science faculty after the 78 fire – it guaranteed my village could be seen from the roof, which I never could confirm, but it seemed dubious when I was studying there 20 years later. Life turned around and he could not escape his fate: it was up to him to continue the family business, the production of regional sweets, the “Doces de Serradelo”. He was the one taking care of the huge oven that was still burning and was an important part of that unique taste.
I told you about my pain, but it’s not the only pain, just the one I know best. I haven’t told you about the insurrection because guilt alone dies and justice remains empty. There is no more time for that
Since his youth, he brought the pet of politics with him, which bit him and never left him alone. The Pejão mines were right next door, and history has taught us that man’s struggle with the bowels of the earth strengthens the organization of those who work. And Virgílio had his heart on the left. With the same naturalness with which he had taught me to drive, he explained the dialectic of life, that the fights took place between the classes, always in a good mood and with a cigarette in hand.
There are 58 other stories that were left without continuation because the bridge did not let them get to the other side. I told you about my pain, but it’s not the only pain, just the one I know best. I lost an uncle who was a second father. He went and did not return, the body did not appear. I was even called to see a mangled photo that was taken on the beaches of Galicia but it wasn’t, I later learned that it was from the village of Raiva. I haven’t told you anything about the insurrection, that guilt dies unmarried and justice remains empty, there is no more time for that.
David Pontes did not provide all of the information in what he wrote yesterday. From Castelo de Paiva, you can also see the sea from the top of Monte de S. Domingos. In fact, it has one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve known, in May when you see the sun fade into the salt water in the distance. But there was no almond blossom …