Years Of Lead: The Bologna Massacre

Even if they were living in dangerous times, nobody could have expected such a big bombing

On August 2, the city of Bologna will remember the death of 85 citizens, killed by the explosion of a bomb hidden in the central train station 39 years ago. This attack is considered one of the worst of the anni di piombo (literally, Years of Lead), a period of social and political turmoil in Italy that lasted from the 60s to the late 80s, marked by a wave of both left-wing and right-wing incidents of political terrorism.

What happened

That day was a particularly hot summer day in Bologna, as usual, lots of people were waiting for their trains in the main waiting room of the train station, in order to escape the heat. The room was packed with people of all ages: families, the elderly, some train employees too. Then, at 10:25, a bag abandoned in a corner of the hall exploded. The explosion was so strong that the roof collapsed, killing 85 people and wounding over 200, and even hit the Ancona-Chiasso train, which was waiting at the first platform. The city was shocked: even if they were living in dangerous times, nobody could have expected such a big bombing. Also, due to its size, most of the emergency services weren’t able to access the bombing site, slowing down all the responses. The attack was attributed to Nuclei Nazionali Armati (literally, National armed unit), a neo-fascist terrorist group.

Dark times and smoking guns

What comes to mind to many Italians when the topic is spoken of, are the Years of Lead, a dark period of times where bombings, terrorism and political killings were scarily common. The first bombing massacre was the Piazza Fontana one, back in 1969, done by numerous terrorist groups (in the same day, Rome, Milan and other cities were attacked simultaneously) and most of them were anarchists or anarchy-inspired. Back then nobody felt safe, even a simple bag left in a square could scare and panic everybody around it — and, as we can imagine, they had a point. What shocked all the people back then (and nowadays) was that the there were terrorist forces from every political wing: leftists had Brigate Rosse (the Red Brigades), right-wings had Avanguardia Nazionale (the National Vanguard), to cite the most (in)famous. Politically talking, every party had something to do with these terrorists and their actions; one of the worst Italian historical incidents, for example, was the kidnapping of Aldo Moro, done by Brigate Rosse.

Years of Lead’s aftermath

No country can completely heal itself after years of bombings and terrorist attacks, and Italy is no exception: even today, 40 years later, we still feel the pain of these massacres; we feel rage against those people who killed so many fellow citizens, as if they were flies, in order to condemn politics. A couple of weeks ago in Turin, a ground-to-air missile was found, which was owned by a right-wing extremist group. Everybody felt that terror, that horror that for four decades has crept inside the heart of our beloved country. On August 2 Bologna will remember its deaths, but at the same time, will remind us how we used to live and how dangerously we can be against ourselves. Bologna will remind us what political extremism can cause: the death of nearly a hundred innocent people, whose only fault, was waiting for a train in Bologna, on a hot and, (not so) peaceful summer morning.