By Joe Alicastro, NBC Producer and former Rome Bureau Chief
Editors Note - this entry first appeared on last year's Daily Nightly.
I had been the Rome Bureau Chief for NBC News from 1989 till 1992. On September 10, 2001, I returned to Rome with my wife for a long overdue vacation to the city that we both love. On 9/11 we had a wonderful lunch at Ristorante Mario in Piazza del Grillo, where we had eaten so many times before and where we were still greeted with hugs and kisses.
Upon returning to our pensione, the phone rang. A friend from the Italian news service, ANSA, was on the phone.
"Pack your bags, you are going home," he said.
I told him to stop the joking and we'd meet him at the Enoteca (wine bar) that evening. He said that I had better turn on the TV. We watched in horror as the second plane hit the World Trade Center followed by the fall of the North and South Towers.
In the following days, as we waited for U.S. air space to open for our immediate return to New York, our friends in Rome could not have been more gracious as they shared in the horror of what had happened to our great city. Each day another invitation would come to share dinner or lunch, to not be the Americans left alone.
We stood outside the American Embassy on the via Veneto for Rome's moment of silence in tribute to our fallen. That evening, RAI -TV broadcast a story of the citizens of the southern city of Gaeta who marched to the port where the U.S. 6th Fleet is based. They were defiantly carrying signs high above their heads which read: "Siamo tutti Americani adesso"..."We are all Americans now."