Erice Group Photo - 1999
It is always a pleasure to return to Erice, walk the stone streets, and explore new places there. So it was in 1999 I attended the School of Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy - Advances in Energy Transfer. It would be somewhat of a bittersweet return, however, as I shall describe. It was a time of making new friends, some I continue to correspond with today and, as usual, visiting sites like Selinunte. Since I first came to Erice in 1995 I have always been called 'Bruno' there, an Italianized version of Brian - sort of a nickname I suppose! Anyway, I had taken to wearing a fedora hat in those days, and Guiseppe, who was the boyfriend of Daniela (helping out as secretary of the course) bought me a beer one evening (a Birra Moretti in fact) during dinner at Edelweiss Restaurant.
He said the guy on the label had a hat like mine, called me 'Bruno Moretti' - and so that is how I am known in Sicily
today! I'm happy with such an Italian name...
A card game we played in the Marsala Room after hours consumed a good deal on nightime fun. The Marsala Room is a place people congregate after hours to socialize and otherwise meet up to have a good time and enjoy some of the marsala wine, of course, provided generously buy the Majorana Center in wooden kegs. I have to say that this may have been one of the more subdued schools I have attended, and there was some socializing, but not on the level it usually is.
So, I come to the reason for that. The course was underway and going along quite well.
Participants @ Selinunte
I had made some friendship with a fellow named Giorgio, who I had met previously here in 1995, but we made a stronger friendship on this occasion. Well, one night there was a disco happening in Erice. These things arise here in Erice and John, the son of the director of the school (and my former Ph.D. advisor) Professor Di Bartolo (Rino), always knows about such happenings. So it was that almost everyone attending the course either went back to their rooms or went to the disco this particular night. There were few people in the Majorana Center that night. Rino was there in his quarters. Daniel (Rino's son) was there, Giorgio, and myself, and nobody else from the course. Some staff of the Majorana Center were there, a doorman monitor named Baldassare, a woman who did administrative work, and the secretary of the school, Dr.
Me @ Segesta I
Alberto Gabriele. Some friends of Dr. Gabriele (a young couple) had been there all day too and were still hanging around. He had introduced me to them earlier in the day and seemed to be in an especially proud mood. I was happy for him and his pride in showing off a bit. He certainly deserved it and devoted himself to work at the Majorana Center. At this point I have trouble remembering who was where and what I was doing, but there was a loud argument coming from the main lobby of the Majorana Center. Italians argue all the time, but this was different. It was very angry voices having it out in a full blown argument. It went on for a while, then suddenly went silent. There was a gasp and a woman (the administrative person) ran across the courtyard and into an office.
Me @ Segesta II
There was interest from everyone what was happening now. Oh, my god, Dr. Gabriele had collaped. Everyone rushed to the lobby and saw him lying on the floor. Baldassare (the doorman monitor) was beside himself. Apparently it was he who had been arguing with Dr. Gabriele when he collapsed. I felt bad for the guy and he looked devastated. The situation seemed worse for Dr. Gabriele, however, and he didn't look good at all. Unresponsive and with labored breathing. Some people who I recognized as Majorana staff arrived shortly with a medical kit and tried to revive or keep him going until an ambulence could arrive. Erice has no hospital and an ambulence from down the mountain would take 15-20 minutes at best to get up the mountain. Their attempts didn't seem to be working, despite their best efforts.
Me @ Erice
They obviously had some training in cpr and such, but it was becoming apparent Dr. Gabriele had suffered a fatal heart attack. Unless the ambulence arrived sooner and could do something, this man was going to die. And so he did, right there on the floor of the lobby in the Majorana Center. I never saw anybody die right in front of me before. He made a strange sort of gasp, expelled a puff of air and then made no more sounds. He just got pale and lay still. An Erice doctor arrived about then and tried to bring him back pushing on his chest and respirating him. Eventually an ambulance arrived from Trapani. They wasted little time in removing him, but we all knew he was dead. The word came about 45 minutes later. Death is everywhere, and happens all the time. You read it in the paper, see it in the news, hear about it often, but to actually watch it in process is another thing.
Alberto Gabriele and Antonino Zichichi
It is something that stays with me to this day and something I will never forget.
The course was posponed a couple days. There was a funeral, which I did not attend and generally don't like funerals. Some attended for the spectacle, to see an Italian funeral, which I found offensive. Well, they didn't know him as I did. The course went on, but it was on a much more subdued level. I think everyone, even those who did not know Dr. Gabriele well, understood that there had been a loss and making merry in the Marsala Room just didn't seem appropriate, so they made merry elsewhere. Life goes on and the course finished. Overall, we learned of nature in the lecture hall, life through our new friendships, and death on the passing of a someone dear in the Majorana Center family. It's hard for me to forget his last gasp in life, but I can remember him smiling & proud earlier that day, alive and chatty, in good spirits doing what he loved best in life. He had a happy last day and that is a good thing!