The Foreign Service Journal, September 2011

O ne September weekend in 2002, our family ventured to the Italian village of Giano Ve- tusto. You probably won’t find it on any travel map. It’s at the top of a small mountain, just about an hour outside of Naples. I would imagine they don’t see a lot of folks there from out of town, much less from other countries. It was a gorgeous, sunny Sunday morning when we arrived to find the whole village gathered in the central square. Banners and flags were flying. Uniformed policemen, firefighters, and American and Italian military person- nel stood at attention. Dignitaries wearing the red, white and green bands of the Italian flag assembled at the small makeshift stage. Just to the right of the stage hung a larger-than-life photograph of a smiling, handsome young man in a New York Port Authority Police uniform. My husband, Bob, took his place near the stage with the Italian digni- taries as our two sons and I found seats among the villagers. A violin began to play, accompanying a soprano singing “Ave Maria.” Tears appeared in the eyes of many of the women, and men began to shift uneasily in their chairs. Even children who had grown restless in the heat listened intently. I could al- most hear the sound of hearts breaking. The young man in the photograph, Domenico Pezzulo, had died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 while sav- ing the lives of two fellow police offi- cers. His wife, Jeanette, his son, Do- minick Jr., and his little daughter, Gi- anna, were there only in spirit. They had stayed in New York City, strug- gling, I’m sure, to rebuild their lives. But his mother, a native of Giano Ve- tusto, and his father, a native of Capua, a larger town nearby, were in atten- dance. People took turns telling the assem- bly about Domenico’s life and family, his passion for his work, and his selfless service to others, exemplified by the sacrifice he’d made on that terrible day in September. We all got to know him just a little bit better that morning. Among those offering tributes was my husband. His words weren’t great in number, but they were great in power. Immense, in fact. He spoke, looking compassionately into the eyes of Domenico’s mother, of how he’d once been a policeman in the United States himself. He comforted her by saying that her son had been a member of another family, the family of American policemen and police- women, and every member of that family, himself included, held a special place in their hearts for Domenico. He promised her that our country would do all it could to ensure her Mimmo, as the family called him, had not died in vain. When the last tribute had been de- livered, we followed the uniformed men and women on a solemn march to the spot, just a couple of hundred me- ters away, where a street sign bearing Domenico’s name was unveiled. We were standing on the same street where, 36 years earlier, his mother had heard her Mimmo’s very first cries. Like his colleagues around the world, my husband carries out a multi- tude of duties as an American diplomat. That Sunday, in a little village on a mountaintop in southern Italy, I was witness to perhaps the most important thing he’s ever done in his service to America: honoring the ultimate sacri- fice of one of her heroes. Melanie Settje is married to FSO Robert Settje. Since joining the For- eign Service in 1994, Robert has served in Santo Domingo, Munich and Naples, in addition to a tour as senior civilian Provincial Reconstruc- tion Team representative in Zabul province, Afghanistan. He is cur- rently a regional consular officer based in Washington, D.C. Domenico Pezzulo had died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 while saving the lives of two of his fellow police officers. R EFLECTIONS Paying Tribute B Y M ELANIE S ETTJE 76 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 1