An account by Fausto Bersotti (I)
"Along with a school friend, I made up my mind to come to Florence and help, even though it meant going against the wishes of our families and teachers. I was sixteen years old at the time and studied at the Classical Lyceum. We caught the train and arrived in Florence that same evening. The station was completely deserted and there was an unnatural silence that was almost frightening.
An aunt of mine who lived near the station put us up and, when we got up in the morning, we went straight to the National Library. There we found large numbers of students and soldiers busy digging out the mud and carrying books backwards and forwards. We joined them and started working. Carrying all those books, the staircases became really heavy going.
Every now and then someone would come by with food and drinks so that the work seemed easier for a while. In the evening we would return home to my aunt's, passing through Via de' Neri, where there was a terrible smell of something gone bad, probably from the food in the shops that was putrifying by then. It was such a horrible stink that even today I can still remember it.
We returned to school after having lived through what was a memorable experience and which was no longer underrated as it had been before we left. I have wonderful memories of an incredible feeling of solidarity and I noticed that young boys like my friend and I were treated with the same importance as anyone else.