Today, on the 14th year anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, I came across a very special, blessed story of a man, and Roma tifoso. The following words are from Anthony Zomparelli, on the truly incredible story of his miracle on that tragic day:
“It is an absolute honor and privilege to share this story with all the tifosi of our beloved giallorossi.
AS Roma has been a major part of my life ever since I was a young child. My parents are Italian immigrants, and when my father came to the United States in 1970, he brought his love of Roma with him. Of course, as every young boy does, I became a fan of my father’s favorite team. The opening theme music for the soccer program “90 Minuto” has been cemented in my mind since childhood. I grew up with the stories of Bruno Conti, Falcao, and the Championship season of 1983. I heard of the heartache in the 1984 Champion’s Cup final against Liverpool. And of course, I lived through “dark ages” of the 1990s as Roma failed to contend for the beloved Scudetto, although Giannini was a grand captain who deserved so much more. But through it all, I have always been a proud supporter of Roma, the team of my heart, the team of which I love. And without question, the one player who has really had an impact on me is Francesco Totti. He is a Roman and a true Romanista, the symbol of Rome and of Roma. I have followed his progression in Serie A ever since he was 16, and since we are so close in age I immediately felt a connection towards him. Following Totti’s outstanding performance in the 2000 European Championship, I entered the 2001 Serie A season with great expectations for Roma. The great reward of finally regaining the Scudetto after 18 long years was an absolute highpoint in my life. I will never forget the joy and tears I shared with my father and brother on Roma’s 2001 Championship victory. Ironically, in the 3-1 win over Parma, my favorite player, Totti, scored, as did my father’s player, Montella, and also my brother’s favorite player, Batistuta. The glory of that win will remain with me always and I thank God I was able to see Roma win the Italian championship.
With my little history out of the way, here is my story. I was an accounting consultant for Marsh & McLennan for over 13 yeras, which was located in the World Trade Center. I worked on the 100th floor of Tower One. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I called my office and said I would not be able to attend work due to an illness. However, the truth was that I was not sick at all. I wanted to be home to watch the Roma – Real Madrid UEFA Champions League game on television. This was a truly monumental game to me for many reasons: 1) it was Roma’s first appearance in this new Champions League format, 2) Roma were “i campioni d’Italia”, 3) Roma were facing the storied team of Real Madrid in Stadio Olimpico, and most importantly 4) the game was to be televised live on ESPN, which is truly special because Roma are never on U.S. television stations.
Unfortunately, what was to be a great day for me turned out to be a complete nightmare. We all know what happened in New York City that day, so there is no need to repeat the details. On September 11th, my company lost 291 employees, 10 of which were very good friends of mine. These people were not just my colleagues, they were a second family to me and no matter where I go in this life, they will always be in my heart. I am eternally grateful that I did not attend work that day. And I will forever be grateful to God and AS Roma for being the reasons I am still alive and well. When I heard that Roma would be coming to New York to play Real Madrid on August 8, 2002 in an exhibition game, it felt like Roma had won the Scudetto all over again. I purchased 6 midfield tickets to the match and was as excited as a child would be waiting for a gift at Christmas time. I would finally get to see my heroes in yellow and red!!! What I did not know was that a friend of my father’s usually drives Serie A players around the New York area whenever they visit the United States. He drove the Roma players around the city and visted the Empire State Building and Ground Zero (where the World Trade Center once stood). Upon visiting Ground Zero, my father’s friend mentioned my story of how I had missed the tragedy to watch the game on television. According to him, the players were stunned. He says that Batistuta and Tommasi asked if a meeting between myself and the team could be arranged. When I heard the news, I was stunned myself!!! I was so happy that such great superstars and champions found it in their hearts to want to meet me. I went to the Sheridan New York Hotel on the morning of August 7th to meet the team I have loved my entire life. I was able to meet with Batistuta, Tommasi, Candela, Emerson, Samuel, Panucci, Antonioli, Pelizzoli, Bombardini, Cassano, and Capello. Unfortunately, Totti had injured his left knee and could not make the trip to New York. I had only a few minutes with them due to their hectic practice schedule, but I will cherish those moments my entire life. I was able to get autographs and take some pictures with them as well.
Meeting Roma was the greatest experience of my life, but I had no idea how much media attention I would receive because of it. I was interviewed by the Roma Channel and I was told by family members in Italy who watched it, that it aired during halftime of the Roma – Real Madrid exhibition match on August 8th. I was also interviewed and featured in many newspapers. My story was printed in Corriere Dello Sport – Stadio, La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Il Tempo, Il Messaggero, and La Provincia. But I am most proud of being interviewed by Stream TV for Italian television. The Stream crew were kind enough to fly from Rome to New York to visit me at my home for an exclusive interview. I was able to share my feelings on the WTC tragedy to all my family and friends in Italy and express my thanks to the Roma team. The television crew also gave me an autographed jersey from Vincenzo Montella. He wrote, “Per un grande tifoso, Tony, Ciao! Vincenzo Montella #9.” The fact that Montella took time out of his personal life to send me is best wishes is something truly special to me and he will always have a special place in my heart. Grazie L’Aeroplanino!!! The Steam crew also promised me that whenever I visit Rome, front row seats to a Roma game will be waiting for me. I can only imagine what it would be like to sit in the Stadio Olimpico and watch Totti lead Roma onto the field. I simply cannot wait to get there!!!!
On this anniversary of the World Trade Center Tragedy, all I can say to all of you around the world is to live life to the fullest. Life as though there is no tomorrow, live life without regret. Embrace your loved ones and enjoy all that makes you happy. I am thankful that I have my family, friends, and my precious Roma, which will always make me happy and proud, in winning or losing. As the song by Antonello Venditti goes….”Grazie Roma!!!!!”
Anthony Zomparelli continues to work in Manhattan, now across the street from the new World Trade Center buildings. You can find Roma Channel’s story on him here. There are countless stories I could personally tell you, and that thousands of people affected by the attacks could tell you. Anthony’s story is truly one of the most miraculous.