Monday, September 1, 2008
There from our roof-top balcony, in the little town of Sant' Agata ~
Sorrento was quietly napping below in the afternoon September sun. It was the second day of our first trip abroad and we'd finally settled in. The enchanting villa opened its arms and enveloped us in old world charm. Its cool marble steps invited bare feet as we laughed our way down to the welcoming pool of icy blue.
Wine in hand, cheese and bread, fresh picked figs and long-cured olives . . . we were in heaven, our family, relaxed and breathing in a luxury we'd only dreamed of. Oh, how I'd wished at that moment my dad were alive to see this. We'd promised each other "one day . . . Italy"! But he didn't make it and yet, I could still imagine him smiling there under a fig tree, biting into his favorite fruit, euphoric as always.
We only had a week and even that was hard to save for, so we relished every breath of Italian air and the scent of lemons that hung in the breeze that day. Four of my five grown children and their partners, my brother and his wife, and one of my nephews, twelve of us in all, were pouring freely. And as we laughed and splashed, drank and hugged, off in the distance we heard the phone.
Who dared to interrupt our carefree romp? Who is calling now? And who will leave his wine to climb the marble steps and fetch that blasted phone?
It was my husband who took the message from New York. He couldn't decipher what my niece was screaming about and called my brother to take the phone and calm his daughter, saying she's hysterical, screaming about terrorists or something. My brother made his way up the marble steps and took the phone. Moments later, he came grey-faced to the doorway and handed the screaming phone to his wife. "They bombed the World Trade Center . . . New York is under attack!" At the other end of the phone was his daughter terrified and trying to speak of the horror flashing across the News on this tragic September morn.
Numbness and disbelief grabbed at our hearts. Close family and friends were there in New York, our oldest son and his wife among them. They were safe for the moment, but no one knew what was coming next. We shook and held each other as my brother's glass hit the marble steps and the red wine spilled. Blood was spilling too from the crumbled Towers back home. In an instant all had changed. Our joy turned into grief in this happy sunny place as the whole world started spinning. Our hearts, trapped now across the ocean, would never be the same.
There was no way home for days and days. Our efforts were useless. Yet in every cafe' and on every corner of this little village, Italians were weeping, offering comfort, shaking their heads with pity when they realized who we were, the Americans from New York, mourning as if we were standing already at the open grave site . . . lowering the coffins of the innocents.
Joanne Cucinello 2008
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