Conclusion and Open Ending
The intense, active experience of the fists-up gesture in the post-earthquake context is a clear example of the ongoing transformation of the concept of silence that Ana María Ochoa mentions in her brief essay, “Silence,” from 2015. The testimonials gathered here show that participation in the orchestration of silence was collective, general, and immediate; for the gesture to be effective it required individuals to become listeners of themselves, their own bodies, their own production of noise. Very few situations make it so evident how our noisy bodies can interfere with the life of others; additionally, this circumstance exemplifies how sound and silence intrinsically coincide.
Listening for life sounds became an activity directly related to proximity to the rescuing area, and many of the volunteers were close enough to move rubble, to break asphalt or pass buckets, but not close enough to listen, even if they attempted to. In the case of Julia, we can read how the efficiency of technology was directly related to the effectiveness of the orchestration of silence, its success or failure. Another important aspect that the testimonies bring to the foreground is the variable scope of the rescuing areas, from the vantage point of the individual listening for life sounds and extending out toward the wider ring of orchestrated silence. Extending the boundaries of the rescuing areas in terms of an agreed-upon auditory regime related to silence and the production of noise, and generalizing the use of the fists-up gesture to orchestrate collective silence, seem crucial for practical purposes related to optimizing rescue efforts.
Silence during the post-earthquake rescuing activities becomes evidence that bodies can attune to the precarious needs of unknown living creatures. The material quality of silence as experienced, perceived, and described by its orchestrators, speaks of the quality of this volunteer activity as both political and spiritual, grounding and hypothetical, a self-organizing force beyond commonplace ideas regarding collective struggles and dominant orders. Reflecting upon it may help us inquire into volunteer and necessary practices, regimes of authority and anarchic movements that find common ground within emergency practices when all we listen for is life, when silence emerges as self-imposed and voluntary, individual and unifying, arriving as togetherness and a common language for survival.