The location of the olive tree in the picture may strike one as being odd. It’s in front of a building, in the middle of a street, where cars park. But this “Tree for Peace” is there for a reason. It’s a symbol. The street is Via D’ Amelio and it’s in Palermo, Sicily. Thirty-one years ago on July 19th, 1992 Judge Paolo Borsellino and 5 Police Agents were killed on that street. They were: Emanuela Loi, Agostino Catalano, Vincenzo Li Muli, Walter Eddie Cosina and Claudio Traina. Thirty-one years without justice is a long time. Judge Paolo Borsellino was an anti-mafia Magistrate and was under protection at the time of his death. He was investigating ties between organized crime and the State.
It was Mrs. Maria Pia Lepanto’s wish. An olive tree, from Bethlehem, was to be planted in the crater left by the explosion that killed her son Judge Paolo Borsellino. Her dream became a reality. One to be cherished and preserved.
A web cam in Via D’Amelio allows us to see Judge Borsellino’s tree 24 hours a day. Here’s the link. It’s also possible to read about the Magistrate’s life story in English from the link’s home page.
The images speak clearly. The olive tree is constantly surrounded by vehicles. Sometimes they park right under its branches. Not exactly respectful towards those who sacrificed their lives to free a country from mafia and corruption.
For this reason, Salvatore Borsellino (Judge Borsellino’s brother) and The Red Diary Movement, founded by Salvatore to seek truth and justice for his older brother Paolo, have formally asked the city of Palermo’s administration to protect the tree and the area surrounding it by creating a “Garden In Memory Of”. Salvatore launched an online petition to support his request. More than 100,000 people signed it.
On the 19th of every month, volunteers from The Red Diary Movement are in Via D’Amelio to receive tourists and visitors under Judge Paolo’s tree. People of all ages, including many students , come to listen and learn about a story from the past that has shaped present-day Italy.
Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future. Elie Wiesel
I asked friends from the Red Diary Movement to share their thoughts and feelings about the meaning of Judge Borsellino’s olive tree in D’Amelio Street. Here is what they wrote.
The Olive Tree In D’Amelio Street
From the Red Diary Movement Group of Turin “Paolo Borsellino”
Amongst these branches large and small, low and high reaching towards the sky, between the wood, the leaves and the unripe olives, merged with the sap flows a little of them…
A little of Paolo, of Walter Eddie, of Agostino, of Vincenzo, of Caludio, of Emanuela. Thanks to this tree we can hold them close to our hearts and tight in our arms in D’Amelio Street. Through those branches we can talk to them, express our feelings of anger towards the indifference of the State and the systemic corruption that is ruining our Country, our lives. We can apologize, prey, cry, or remain in silence.
Tended hands reach through the branches to leave signs and symbols of their visit to this sacred place.
They are the hands of children, of youth who each year, on July 19th, come to D’Amelio Street from all over Italy. Some for the first time. They come to learn, to understand a story that is part of their Country’s history, a story that serves as memory.
The olive tree in D’Amelio Street is the echo of our Nation’s past. It is the People’s need to make July 19th, 1992 an indelible day, a day that must be kept alive to continue to raise awareness. Generation after generation, year after year Judge Paolo’s siblings Salvatore and Rita have relentlessly searched for truth and justice. Sadly, Rita is no longer with us.
Salvatore continues his quest, with us by his side, with our Red Diaries held up high.
The olive tree in D’Amelio Street belongs to the world. It belongs to every Italian citizen who honors the lives of those who died to bring Justice, Equality and Freedom to our Country.
Every tree deserves respect. This tree in particular deserves to be cared for. On July 19th, 1992 at 4:59 pm Judge Paolo Borsellino, Emanuela Loi, Agostino Catalano, Vincenzo Li Muli, Walter Eddie Cosina and Claudio Traina gave their lives for the well-being of all. The least we can do is cultivate their dream and safeguard the grounds that are imbued with their love.
From the Red Diary Movement Group of Rome “Attilio Manca”
We believe that this Country has serious issues with memory. Since there isn’t a cure for this, the only thing we can do is make a daily commitment to remember the massacre of D’Amelio Street, for youth, to raise their awareness and give them the possibility to decide which side to be on. As adults they will be able, in turn, to convey memory to their own children and future generations. Hopefully, by doing this, sooner or later, not only will the victim’s families be able to find solace through truth and justice, but we will also have contributed to the building of a Nation whose vision:
“Allows us to feel the beauty of the fresh scent of freedom as opposed to the stink of moral compromise, indifference, contiguity and therefore complicity”.
This is was Judge Borsellino’s hope, his dream.