September 11th 2001 will always be a day I remember. From 1999-2003 I worked for a publisher and one of my territories was Italy. Since my parents are Italian this was a pleasure and I was able to spend most weekends when I was in Italy with my family which was great because I was able to spend time with my Aunts and Uncles (Zii) who were quite old and quite dear.
On September 11th 2001 I had just finished a wonderful weekend with relative in Padenghe a fabulous town overlooking Lake Garda where my cousins live. It was a great day and I was in Milan making a presentation to a group of Italian leathergoods manufacturers. When we walked outside in front of the Duomo we saw on the video screens the burning towers. All I could think about was Traudi, my wife who worked in New York at that time and I could not get a hold of her. It took days to know what happened and it was very upsetting to think that she might be dead. As we were driving in the Car with my friend and agent Claudio Cottone I kept hearing the same Italian word Crollatto.
Collapse. It was a day that no one will forget.
That evening we had to go to Verona to make another presentation and we decided to go out to dinner. We had a great dinner --yet all was melancholy-- but if you have to eat anyway why not something good.
At the end of a fabulous dinner (Risotto with Funghi Porcini, Veal Chop with Radicchio and Funghi,Val Policella, Grappa, and Cafe) the owner came out of the kitchen and he looked at me and said "you may speak Italian with a Bresciano accent" which is my mother's region, "but you stand like an American" " then he said we are all Americans today-- I hope you enjoyed my food, don't worry about the bill, and then he said we will see each other again" And in the subtle Northern Italian way he affirmed me in a time of pain. A simple gesture that I will not forget.
I think that is was fitting that I would experience September 11th in the land of my Mother's family- a place so dear to me. So many people go to Italia and love the colored Italy of Tuscany or Naples but I like the working Italy of Brescia, Verona, Milan and Vicenza, the Italy of the hard nosed hardworking people of the North-- where kindnesses are genuine.
In the end that feeling from that dinner in Verona are from a time as remote as the Borgia Popes from today. George Bush decided that having the world respect and care for Americans would hurt his political chances and so he threw that all away. The America of the Marshall Plan, Berlin Airlift, Peace Corp and all the rest has been murdered by George Bush and his friends- we are now like every other empire but with a lost soul. When I go to Italia now I have to feel ashamed of our ignorance and stupidity and I pray that someday I will again have a feeling like the one I had from a genuinely kind man in Verona on September 11th 2001.