An old man approaches the reception. He asks for cigarettes. They give him a scant dozen, “maybe seven or eight, like they’re rationed.” Then a voice warns, “Now you’re okay for a while.”
Isabella is at the entrance of the RSA Virgilio Ferrariin via dei Panigarola 14 in Milan, where is your father staying. Two hundred meters separate it from the other residence for the elderly via dei Cinquecento 19: the Casa de los Esposos, where on Friday night a fire killed six people and injured more than 80. The company that manages the two structures is the same, Proges. But there is no doubt about the cause of the accidental fire: the wick was a cigarette. One of those that Isabella sees delivered to a gentleman.
She is visiting dad. Watch the exchange. She then approaches scared: “You are crazy for giving cigarettes to such fragile people,” he exclaims against the reception employees.. But it is a cry thrown into the void. A cry against that “excessive freedom that led to disaster”. «I am not surprised what happened – continues Isabella – It was obvious to me that it would happen. I always said that I would explode here. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t occur but that they should be controlled more, yes. At least they didn’t leave the elderly alone to smoke”. In fact, within the Rsa, everyone knew it: from the smokers among the guests, avid or not, through the staff, to the relatives of the patients. And the script “He repeated the same thing on several occasions.” Cigarettes are distributed from reception to individual guests according to a monthly cap. They are usually kept in a drawer. “It happened that someone came to ask for more than what was owed and if it was not granted, quarrels arose, even among the elders themselves.” It almost seems like everything was organized by structure. But there were also those who, among the most agile, would go out, perhaps with a pizzino, and go “shopping” for all.
A cigarette, then, the beginning of everything. Sometimes it is consumed in common areas, internal patios and smoking areas, other times inside the building. Maybe in the room, looking out the window, for those who could. This situation is confirmed by the accounts of some witnesses who live opposite the house of the spouses. For example, Lucía Guaragni, one of the first to describe the scary night in the Corvetto, recalling “the old people at the windows with wet rags in their mouths.” But among the things that “I’m going to miss the most,” Lucía explained, “will be that lady who leaned out of the window to smoke and with whom I happened to exchange a few words.”
“While what scares me the most now – continues Isabella – is a repetition of the tragedy in the other building as well in via dei Panigarola». The building is connected to the one on via dei Cinquecento and they are under the same management. There were also problems with the fire system, so much so that a nightly review by the fire brigade was scheduled. “I wait for my father.” The end at the hand of a butt.