It was a beautiful October day in Rome and I was reading a newspaper at my favorite café in the Piazza Navona. My schedule appeared to be finally coming together and I was enjoying the melodious sounds of the tourists and the fountains. On my way back to the college I ran into some American tourists and gave them a quick two hour tour of the area.It was very comforting to hear the accents and enthusiasm of my native citizens as they took in the beauty and charm of this wondrous city.
Once back at the college I was reading some mail from the states when I was buzzed by the switch board operator. There were no phones in our rooms so I walked down to the main area and picked up the receiver. The Italian operator said’You have a call from the America. “Pleasantly surprised I waited until a voice came on and said” Hello Sal this is Tom Daly “My immediate reaction was that Tom a priest from Holy Trinity was coming to visit Rome, but then I could tell from his voice that something was amiss. I thought one of my parents had died, and wondered why my sister or brother had not notified me. Tom in a voice tinged with great sadness said”I have terrible news .Jack was killed in an accident last night.”My initial reaction was that I was dreaming, and soon the dawn would wipe away this nightmare but in my heart I knew this was not a dream. I could say nothing but “I will be on the next plane Tom.”
I had been no stranger to the world of death. There were the awful moments when I told others that a loved one had been killed, and there were those times when I held the hand of one who was drawing their last breath, but this was somehow different. I had wept with family members and touched the searing pain of loss but this was as though my soul had been obliterated. Jack was only twenty nine and I could not conceive that he was dead. Going through the motions of packing denial provided some respite. He was dead while I was in Rome, but when I arrived in Westfield he was injured but still alive. The tricks of the mind attempted to heal the pain of my soul.
I had quit smoking cigarettes but on the plane borrowing a cigarette I fell back fully into the habit. The trip back to Kennedy seemed to go on forever but fortunately I was so emotionally drained that I slept for a good portion of the flight.