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Twin Towers of Italy

Natalia J. Garland

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We are passing through the six-month anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Freedom has endured the destruction. In an attempt to fill the emotional void, what a strange comfort to find that the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center were not the only twin towers in the world. Although nothing can replace the citizens who perished so needlessly, or the Army Rangers and Marines who gave all, and although the World Trade Center will be rebuilt someday in an altered form, history and geography have another story to offer us. We need to look no farther than Italy.

The city of Bologna, Italy, has some things in common with New York City, including twin towers. Bologna was a successful city in the Middle Ages. Like New Yorkers and all Americans, they valued freedom and their motto was "Libertas." The people of Bologna rebelled against imperialism in 1114, and Emperor Henry V had to grant them freedom in 1116. Bologna then became a center of business and intellectual life.

The University at Bologna provided citizens with a new road to success--education. The University provided an alternative to serving the church (through the priesthood and religious orders) or the aristocracy (through the military). The University also had several women professors. Bologna acquired the nickname, "La Dotta," meaning "The Learned." Dante was a student in Bologna at the end of the 13th century.

The wealthy families of Bologna began to compete with one another in the building of towers. The towers were used as status symbols as well as watchtower fortifications for defense. In 1294, with a population of about 50,000, there were almost 200 towers. Today, 20 towers have survived.

Two of these towers are located near each other, and at one time were connected by a bridge. The tallest tower is the Torre degli Asinelli. It was built in 1119. In 1399, the dome fell off. And in 1505, it was damaged by an earthquake. The tower is 322 feet high and weighs 8000 tons. The walls are 12 feet thick at the base, and 3 feet thick at the top. It has 498 wooden steps. Next, the Torre Garisenda is 158 feet tall and leans almost as much as the Tower of Pisa (before repairs). It is presently 9 feet out of alignment.

Many people have visited the towers of Bologna. Charles Dickens visited, and Lady Morgan (an Irish author). The University continues to attract students and the current enrollment is around 100,000. During the Communist era, however, Bologna was ruled by Communist Party leaders and acquired another nickname, "Bologna the Red." Despite those unfortunate years, the city is now developing a tourist trade and the presence of the University keeps it vital.

As Americans, most of us had never experienced devastation on our homeland before September 11, 2001. Bologna survived physical and political hardships, and is regenerating itself into a another season of growth. New Yorkers and all Americans will do the same. In my own vision of freedom and success, the Twin Towers will always stand proudly over the City's busy streets and harbor. Beyond the shock and grief, even beyond the return to normalcy, there is a crucial challenge that we must grasp in order to procure "libertas" in this era of terrorism. Constant vigilance, bureaucratic efficiency, and reliance on a Higher Power can guide us safely to the one-year anniversary. (Written 03/18/02 - Revised 08/01/06: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2002, 2006 Natalia J. Garland