Page last updated at 19:30 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 20:30 UK

Quake funeral stirs raw memories

Thousands of mourners watch as Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone blesses the dead in L'Aquila, 10/04
Mourners were joined by political leaders and emergency crews at the funeral

By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, L'Aquila

Rows upon rows of coffins were laid out in the sun, in front of thousands of mourners.

Tiny white caskets of the children who died were placed on top of their parents' coffins.

The youngest was just four-months old - Antonio Iovan died with his mother.

A woman looks at a coffin in L'Aquila, 10/04

Some of the coffins were decorated with children's toys, balloons and baby clothes.

It was a highly emotional day of public grief and private reflection for the people of L'Aquila.

Lucia sat near the front with her head in her hands.

Her 20-year-old nephew, Fabio, was among the dead.

"It was only right that they had a state funeral. It was the least they could do," she said.

This was the first time that the people of this shattered town had come together.

The funeral mass was held at a military parade ground as all of the local churches were considered unsafe.

Monks' railway refuge

When the earthquake struck at 0332 on Monday most people were in bed.

Like thousands of homes, the 15th Century Santa Lucia friary was destroyed.

All of the monks managed to escape.

The real test starts now as we wait for help to rebuilt our lives
Lucia, resident of L'Aquila

After the last one was pulled free, Father Superior Frape Luciano administered last rites at the local hospital where he works as a chaplain.

"I couldn't stop crying throughout the whole of the funeral," he said.

"It brought back memories of how, on the day of the earthquake, I found it very upsetting to see all of the bodies and [then] the caskets arriving and L'Aquila destroyed."

The father superior and his order of Capuchin monks are now living in a railway carriage at L'Aquila railway station.

Political leaders and emergency workers joined the victims at the state funeral.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was, at times, visibly upset as he comforted those who had lost loved ones.

After the funeral mass ended the coffins were taken away by their families for private burial.

The thoughts of some of the relatives are now turning to the future.

"The real test starts now as we wait for help to rebuilt our lives," Lucia says as she watches the last of the coffins leave the parade ground.

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