On August 24, 2016, Italy suffered a devastating earthquake that took the lives of 297 people.
Particularly hard hit was the picturesque mountain town of Pescara del Tronto, a historic village with a permanent population of only about 100 people.
When the quake struck, many of the town's old stone buildings were left in ruins, people were buried under rubble, and families instantly became homeless.
Rescue workers and ordinary citizens worked fervently to remove debris and save as many people as they could.
Under the rubble was Giulia Rinaldo, only 8 years old. But when firefighters reached her 16 hours after the quake, she was already dead.
When they lifted up Giulia's lifeless body, firefighters found her little sister, four-year-old Giorgia, still alive underneath her.
Giulia had sacrificed her own life to act as a human shield for her little sister.
One of the firefighters was so moved by Guilia's selfless act that he wrote her a letter and taped it to her coffin, writes news.com.au.
Giulia and 34 others were laid to rest at a state funeral serivce in the regional capital of Ascoli Piceno.
Here's what the firefighter wrote:
"Ciao, little one,
I gave a hand trying to pull you out of that prison of rubble. Sorry we didn’t make it in time. Unfortunately you had stopped breathing.
But I want you to know from up there that we did all that we could to pull you out. When I get home I will know that there is an angel watching me from heaven.
Ciao Giulia, even if I never knew you, I love you.
After the letter was published in an Italian newspaper, it quickly went viral, and I'm sure it touched the hearts of thousands of people.
Giulia is a true hero who will live on in the hearts of the many people who will never forget her selfless act.
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