The saddest place I've traveled to
* Some readers might find the content of this post, which includes pictures, disturbing. Readers discretion is advised. *
It's 79 A.D. in the beautiful coastal community in which you live. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. You wake up and start the day as you did many others before. It is, to the best of your knowledge, an ordinary day. Your beloved dog tags along as you set about the chores of the day. What you don't know is that today, everything is going to change and you might not live through it.
Welcome to Pompeii
Once a thriving ancient Roman city, Pompeii was located just 14 miles southeast of Naples, Italy. But, it also unfortunately sat beneath Mt. Vesuvius. The people of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other small villas, which were all established closely to Vesuvius, had their lives forever changed on one fateful day.
The eruption is so violent it has been equated to 100,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs. A mixture of gases is propelled up to 21 miles high, while pulverized pumice and hot ash and other debris are sent propelling at 1.5 million tons per second. Although the eruption was incredibly violent, scientists believe that most people had time to flee after the initial eruption. However, most citizens of that time had no prior experience with anything of the sort. Unknowingly putting their lives on the line. many chose to stay. They hunkered down in their houses and waited for the apocalyptic event to pass. As the heavy ash and pumice stone rained down on them, the buildings began to collapse under the weight. Then there are those who did remain, but later desired to leave, only to be entombed in their own homes, barricaded in by the piling up pumice stone.
It was the pyroclastic surge that then tore off the mountain at roughly 100 mph. It completely obliterated everything in it's path, leaving no place to hide.
For the unfortunate souls of Herculaneum, many huddled together on the beach awaiting rescue, or hiding inside the boat houses, they didn't stand a chance. For those on the beach, they were killed instantly by the intense heat of the pyroclastic surge. For those hunkering in the boat houses, which were strong stone structures, the heat was so hot, it incinerated their flesh within seconds and caused some of their brains to boil and explode from their skulls due to the pressure.
For the people of Pomeii, the wind showed them no mercy, directing the noxious cloud of gases and ash toward them. It has been said most perished from asphyxiation and choking. It was a slow, horrifying death to which the victims would be aware. The victims of Pompeii were later found in the same position they were in when the pyroclastic flows hit them. Their bodies, which had been covered by layers of ash, were well preserved, even after they had decomposed. Later, casts were poured over these bodies, preserving them as we see them today, in the haunting last moments of their lives. It is because of this, Pompeii is often said to be a city frozen in time.
What makes Pompeii unlike any other place that I have visited, is that you're not being told story that you have to imagine. It's so vastly different than going to Rome to see the coliseum and imaging the horror. In some places, you can withdraw, you can pull away and disconnect from the anguish and evil of humanity. Yet in Pompeii, I felt completely pulled in, almost unable to look away. I was gripped by the loss of their lives and truly enchanted by the curiosity of who they were.
As we toured through the city, archeologists were still actively digging. The city of Pompeii was covered under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash. As each year passes, we learn more about these people, their culture and that fateful day.
A pregnant woman
As in most natural disasters, not even the innocent were spared. Some of the remains throughout the city were that of young children, pregnant women and the elderly. There are gut wrenching scenes where bodies were gathered together and from their position, you could write the final moments of their story. Terrified parents trying to rescue their children, some of which are clinging onto to one another.
Others were found huddled together. Slaves and their masters, live stock and pets. Some were found still clinging to their coin purses.
An individual trying to cover their mouth to breath
After the eruption, Pompeii remained mostly untouched and unexplored until 1748. Buried beneath all the ash and stone the city and the bodies of it's people sat perfect preserved as it was 2,000 years before. Excavations of Pompeii have continued on for nearly 300 years.
Today, Mt. Vesuvius still remains one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. What makes experts more afraid than ever is unlike in the days of Pompeii, the population within 20 miles of Vesuvius is 3 million and this mountain is still very much alive. Experts believe another catastrophic event could occur at any time. We don't know if Pompeii will survive another blow from Mt. Vesuvius, but while she is still there standing strong, I recommend going and seeing this once ancient city and her people.
As always, keep it safe, keep it cool, and stay curious.