There were at least 218 Italians and Italian-Americans among the victims of the attack on the Twin Towers of 11 September 2001. We know this thanks to Giulio Picolli, an Italian American who has dedicated the last twenty years of his life to this enterprise. And they are the names collected by him that are read in a ceremony at the Consulate General of New York every anniversary. “I’m a simple citizen who got angry, I want to keep the memory of our community alive,” Picolli told Adnkronos, describing how his project matured. It all began on the evening of September 13, two days after the attack, while he was watching an Italian news program. A well-known presenter of a program said “thank goodness, there were no Italian victims”. In Picolli “the arms fell”. “We are 35% of the population of the metropolitan area of New York, it was logical to think that in such a tragedy 30-40% of the victims were of Italian origin”, he points out. After a first phone call in protest, Picolli decided to collect the names. He received no help from the American and Italian authorities, in the name of protecting privacy. So he went to work on his own, starting with the list of victims with their stories that the New York Times had published. A first selection identified 480 names that might have seemed Italian, then dropped to 186 whose origin was certain. In some cases it was helped with the names of children and parents that appeared in the mortuary announcements. As Picolli’s work became known among the Italians of New York, thanks also to the reading of the names at the consulate, it was the relatives of the victims who reported their loved ones. For the twentieth anniversary of the attack, Picolli had a small book printed with the names collected, up to 215. But in the meantime, three more have arrived, including a policewoman registered with her husband’s non-Italian surname. And so we get to 218. “Once, years ago, after the reading of the names at the consulate was finished, the ambassador Gianni Castellaneta and Massimo D’Alema were present who was visiting, a lady came forward shouting: ‘my son where’ And?’ and then he fainted, “Picolli says. “Two days later I went to her house to ask her forgiveness, even if it wasn’t my fault.” And so was also added the name of the son, Angelo Sereno. Picolli knows many stories of those who are no longer there. That of a former policeman, Giovanni Spataro, who asked him for help to find the tomb of his dead son in the Towers. The daughter-in-law never revealed it to him and unfortunately the law was on his side. Or the young electrician from a family of Sicilian immigrants from Brooklyn who was fixing the air conditioning on the roof of one of the two Towers. After the outbreak of the fire caused by the impact of the terrorists’ planes, he had started to help the firefighters, because his dream was to be a firefighter, and he never returned. “In 2007 I went to his mother in Brooklyn, the house looked like a church with candles lit in front of the image of the son”, says Picolli moved. But it is only when asked if he too has lost a loved one, that Picolli recounts his personal pain. Because his godson Luigi Gino Calvi, 34, who worked in an important investment bank, also died in the Towers. “Giggetto” grew up with his children because he was the son of fraternal friends who emigrated like him from Naples in the mid-sixties. On Saturday at the consulate, as every year, a ceremony will be held in front of the sculpture commemorating the victims. A monument to the memory that Picolli strongly wanted, publicly asking the then president of the Chamber Pier Ferdinado Casini, on the occasion of a visit. The names will be read and Picolli, who is the “Coordinator of the Italian victims of 9/11”, will distribute boxes with New York police badges, personalized with the names of the victims, bearing the words ‘Never Forget 2001-2021’.
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