Reporter's Notebook: Survivors speak of trauma in wake of Italy's deadly earthquake

A fellow witness to the aftermath of the earthquake Wednesday in central Italy told me it is testimony to the very uncertainty of life.

All you love and work to cultivate: family, friendships, home and a job can be gone in a matter of seconds, without warning or a chance to say good-bye.

It is wrenching to understand that -- to feel it firsthand -- and the realization, once seared into your brain with the help of images of pulverized towns, like Amatrice, will never leave you.

Some people ask, "Why did he die and I survive?"

Some of this would have had to do with luck, no doubt, some with observance of building code.

The path of destruction was patchy. Entire hamlets destroyed with the exception of a few inexplicably intact structures, connected by little stretches of totally normal life, paint a picture of nature's fickle ways.

The death toll as of Thursday evening stood at 250. 215 people were rescued alive.

Three communities -- Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto -- were completely destroyed, together with their medieaval patrimony.

The area is stunning, ringed by mountains, dotted with lakes and set against soft color.

The decimated towns were ones most Americans would leave off an itinerary -- remote and not enough obvious attractions. But learning of their attributes when it is only too late, I understand only now what so many of us have missed.

The mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi should have been hosting a "pasta all' amatriciana" festival this weekend, but instead is grieving with friends.

He said he already sees his town rebuilt, adding, "We owe it to the hundreds who died here."

How to go about that, and who will pay, is a question for another day.

The polemics around who cut corners on construction have aleady begun in this bureaucracy-heavy country. But job one is making sure no survivors anywhere are missed.

Already, social media and informal social networks are talking about what to do to help Amatrice and its neighbors.

One appeal has gone out for a proceed of the price paid in restaurants for "pasta al'amatriciana" (which by the way is a popular Italian dish born in Amatrice) to go to help rebuild and recovery.

There has been a declaration that all museum fees in Italy this Sunday will go to the relief effort.

There are the giving, and also those who try to take advantage of a chaotic situation.

Police have had to stop people trying to loot some of the collapsed homes.  And there is the odd person seen coyly posing for pictures in the scene of such misery.

Meanwhile, the aftershocks keep coming, which slows down the work of rescue and recovery. And for those who have seen such brutal devastation, and lived through all this, it must be terrifying to feel yourself on unsteady ground again and again.