"When I saw Kennedy, with his white raincoat covered in mud, I said hello to him in English and he shook my hand"

An account by Stefano Stefanini (I) 1

"I came to Florence immediately after the flood with two friends, Marco Perotto and Enrico Calzolari, who I haven't seen for many years because of my present job. I was then a student at the University of Pisa and, with Calzolari, organized a collection to give to the Red Cross.

I had no exams at the time at University so I was able to stay and help in Florence for about a week. I have some wonderful memories of Florence in that period. The city was completely transformed and was full of people doing everything they could to help. If we went into a bar they would offer us food and people invented some really incredible things so as to be able to get back to normal.

There were no barriers during an emergency of this sort. I recall one Florentine saying that the atmosphere at the time was very like what he remembered immediately after the liberation. Everyone gave their best. When faced with such a dire problem, they all pulled up their sleeves and got on with it.

Ted Kennedy came to Florence, while I was there, to have a look at the damage at the National Library. I saw him, with his white raincoat covered in mud, and I said hello to him in English. He came over and shook my hand. Since then, my job has brought me in contact with one of his aides and I was able to tell him about this episode.

Psycologically it was extremely important for the Florentines to be able to see so much solidarity from all over the world.

Stefano Stefanini is now First Secretary to the Italian Ambassador in Washington



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