The Electrical Worker online
December 2013

Italian Trade Unionists Commemorate 9/11
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In the wake of the attacks against the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, our national tragedy was felt throughout the world, particularly in Europe, where terrorism has also taken its toll. And many of the 21 IBEW members, the New York City firefighters and others who lost their lives as the towers exploded were among the 17 million Americans who claim Italian ancestry.

In September, Italian trade unionists sponsored a memorial service for 9/11 victims at a monument in Padua built in 2005. The monument, named "Memory and Light" is the only memorial in Europe paying tribute to 9/11's victims. Located in Northern Italy, Padua — the capital of Padua province — is a busy commercial center and home of celebrated art and architecture from the medieval and Renaissance periods.

Sponsors of the international memorial service included Carlo de Masi, secretary general of FLAEI, Italy's largest union of electricians. The IBEW and FLAEI maintain strong fraternal ties. Carlo de Masi has been a guest at several IBEW conventions.

"I was overwhelmed," says International Secretary-Treasurer Sam Chilia, who addressed the commemoration.

The IBEW delegation included New York Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erickson, John Marchell, the local's president and Sebastiano Licciardi, representing the victims' families. Licciardi's son, Ralph, 30, a father of two and a member of Local 3, was killed on 9/11.

"I was impressed by the way the Italian labor people carry a special passion for the American people. They view 9/11 personally as if their own sons and daughters lost their lives," says Chilia.

Members of Local 3's Sword of Light Pipe Band played bagpipes for an honor guard made up of American and Italian firefighters. A bell made by members of Local 3 and etched with the names of the union's 9/11 dead was donated to the monument's museum, which contains a photographic exhibit of people and events surrounding the tragedy.

The mayor of Padua attended, along with Liliana Ocimin, the confederal secretary of the largest labor federation in Italy, and Rick Snelsire, from the U.S. Embassy Milan Consulate.

"By sponsoring this extraordinary, thoughtful commemoration, Carlo de Masi and members of Italy's labor movement have demonstrated that workers in both our nations will never surrender to terrorism and division, but will work together for a safer world where the sons and daughters of workers will prosper together," IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill said.

Memory and Light was designed by Daniel Libeskind, an American architect of Polish descent. Built as an etched glass rendering of the "Book of History," the left hand "page" of the memorial contains a steel beam salvaged from the World Trade Center.

The official Web site for the memorial says, "The latitude of New York is connected to the center of Padua as the vertical hinge of the Book. The Book is luminous, as is the low and expressive wall which creates an intimate place for meditation … The Book is delicately balanced between the historical buildings of Padua, the bridge, the waterway … This special place will glow day and night, and throughout the seasons of the year."

"The memorial ceremony brought back the tragedy of 9/11," says Chilia. "But it also cemented the bonds between two nations. "Carlo de Masi spoke about how his people, defeated in World War II, were liberated by Americans who came out of compassion, not to take tribute."


A group of IBEW union leaders and representatives joined Italians for a 9/11 commemoration in September in Padua, Italy.