A woman in Astoria, Queens, frantically tried to reach her grandmother, who lives in the Abruzzo region of Italy.
A Roslyn immigrant surfed the Web to see if any of his relatives were affected by the deadly earthquake that struck his homeland.
Lynbrook woman from Sicily - far removed from the epicenter of the natural disaster that left more than 150 people dead and thousands more homeless - did the only thing she could think of: she prayed.
"We are just so devastated," said Nancy DiFiore Quinn, 62, president of Order Sons of Italy in America, Grand Lodge of New York. "I felt so sad. I just started to pray that it wouldn't be too tremendous a tragedy."
Thousands of Italians spanning generations and regions across New York Monday began fundraising efforts for the victims of a powerful earthquake that flattened the medieval, mountainous town of L'Aquila in central Italy.
From UNICO Italian-American service organization chapters across Long Island to social clubs in Queens to the Italian-American Museum in Manhattan, the sentiment was one.
"It's very upsetting, I heard this and just sort of burst out crying," said Maria Fosco, 46, of Astoria. "The 1980 earthquake happened in Naples; it unified the Italian-American community."
This, she said, will too. Fosco's 98-year-old grandmother lives in neighboring Chieti province, also part of the Abruzzo region. "We got in touch with her, she's OK," said Fosco. "They're really shaken up. They felt it."
Among the collapsed buildings was a university dormitory. Patrizia Trento, who works at the UNICO national headquarters in Fairfield, N.J., said her cousin goes to school there. "She got out of the building just in time," said Trento, 34. "The town is devastated, they're putting them up in tents. She doesn't know how soon she can get home to Sicily."
UNICO sent out a newsletter to its chapters requesting money for a relief fund.
Luciano DiRico, 56, of Roslyn said he is to attend a UNICO chapter meeting Tuesday. "When things like this happen, our organization of Italian-American businesses get together to raise funds," he said. "It's Italy. Whatever part of Italy, when Italy is struck, we come together to fundraise and donate money."
The Italian American Museum is now accepting donations for those effected in Monday's deadly earthquake.
Donations can be made by credit card by calling the museum (212) 965-9000
Checks should be made out to the "Italian American Museum Earthquake Relief Fund 2009"
They can be dropped off or mailed to the museum at:
155 Mulberry St.
New York, NY 10013