I recently read in John Dickie’s book “Cosa Nostra. A History of the Sicilian Mafia”, that the killing of the magistrate Giovanni Falcone was such a shock to the whole country, that most Italians can remember exactly where they were when they heard the news:
On the 24th of May 1992 I was in Lusaka (Zambia) where I was working as a teacher at the Italian Liceo Scientifico. It was a bank holiday Sunday and the school had organized a social dinner for members of staff, students and their families. At around midday I was sitting at a table with one of my colleagues and some students. Sitting at a nearby table was Mariolina, the school secretary: “Serena”, she called across to me “Hanno ucciso Giovanni Falcone ieri!”. The image of that day and Mariolina’s words have remained engraved in my memory.
Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Falcone, the man who was our symbol of the fight against the Mafia. On that tragic Saturday twenty years ago, Falcone and his wife were travelling along the A29 motorway in his armour plated FIAT Croma on his way to visit his sister Maria in Palermo. He was accompanied by a police escort in two unmarked cars. At 17:58, as the three cars were passing the exit for Capaci, 500 kg of explosive were detonated in a tunnel underneath the motorway by Mafioso Giovanni Brusca ‘Lo Scannacristiani’ (the Christians’ slaughterer). Judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo, and Rocco Di Cillo, Vito Schifani, Antonio Montinaro, the three agents travelling in one of the escort vehicles, lost their life in the explosion. Seven other people were injured.
Giovanni Falcone, with his indefatigable work, gave us Italians hope that the cancer of the Mafia could be defeated. He once said: “La Mafia è un fenomeno umano e come tutti i fenomeni umani ha un principio, una sua evoluzione e avrà quindi anche una fine” (The Mafia is a human phenomenon, and as with all human phenomena it has a beginning and an evolution, and therefore it will have an end). Falcone’s strong sense of duty and service to the State never wavered despite a previous attempt on his life in 1989. He often said that it was not a question of if the Mafia would kill him, but when.
Grazie Giovanni, riposa in pace con Francesca, Rocco, Vito e Antonio!