By D. Darteo Sommese
The Mugging Papers. by D. Darteo Sommese On June 8 2009, after having drinks with friends the author decided to go for a walk for some exercise around the city like he is used to. There was a full moon and no other city shines as brightly as Rome does on full moon night. June 8, passed into June 9, 2009. I walked from Campo di Fiori to climb the Capotoine hill and walked up and down and around, then heading past the Teatro Marcello to pass the Fountain of the Turtles, before walking to piazza Largo Argentina to catch my bus home. The events of the attack and result are told in a series of letters to friends most written after a two week stay in the hospital.
--------------------------------------- June 11 2009. (bulk e-mail to friends) Short note: Been in hospital all week. Escaped tonight. Typing with left hand, been mugged at 1 am Tuesday. 3 guys came from behind on public street, an oddly empty moment on the street. They silently took me down to punch me in the face while one was holding me. I tried to resist. I had no idea what they were doing or why. I passed out. As they pulled up my fanny pack , I woke up . I grabbed pack yelled for help. Someone came. They called the ambulance. I was rushed to Tiber island hospital. I was in very bad shape, sick with a black black eye. My teeth and bridge work were mangled. Broke ulna in right arm, 3 pieces. I got teeth working today, but nothing done on the arm yet. The hospital is good but short on space. People coming in at all hours. Three people in room for two. A dying older man was wheeled in my room tonight. His daughter prepared for an all night vigil. Again no sleep. I escaped for the night. I will go back in the morning. Exhausted. Must sleep now. No email for while..... Ciao Darteo
--- Saturday June 20 2009 I snuck out of the hospital that night I sent that first email while I was still in shock. Leaving made them all crazy, but I was alone in my victimís torment. I needed a reality check. Being alone is a challenge and no one here understands. Italy is a family oriented place, no one is alone, everyone is surrounded by a really doting family.
Email really is only for the healthy and able bodied. It worries me that people rely on it so much for communication. If someone dies on one end, or if they are beat up and can not write, or get to the computer, then how will sending an email console them? The cell phone is the most reliable form of communication. Hospital phones in Italy have all been removed, since virtually everyone has a cell here and has had one for a long time. They are in hourly contact with family and friends.
Some relatives from the States called, thank God for that, most donít. The distance is farther than their spoken love travels. One cousin wrote dismissively, ďnobody ever died of a broken arm.Ē I suppose at 34 you canít imagine being age 64 and how less invincible you feel. For the young, a call is only necessary when someone is dying. It is as if getting worked over by surprise by 3 guys can not stop your heart or cause brain damage. It is interesting how insensitive your own family can be. Being in the hospital for two weeks did not require a call from anyone who shares my last name. This is how they are. Some things are not surprise. What is more sad is how your own family measures up to the attentive Italian families I saw while in the hospital. Some friends, who substituted as family, came to the hospital to bring me things I needed and showed some concern. I can not ever thank them enough. One needs this kind of support in an Italian hospital.
Now I have a titanium plaque in my arm with 6 screws and 20 staples. The hospital was clean and efficient. The staff was warm and friendly. The surgical team was really professional. I have to get my teeth fixed now, but will wait until this constant queasy feeling goes away. I need to rest in my own bed. It will take rest and time to heal.
These guys really could have killed me, they were so stupidly brutal. They did not seem Italian. I had the feeling they were Eastern European, but youth can be callous anywhere. Life is long, they will be older and more vulnerable. Each of those young men might find themselves older and alone on the street one day.
The police were with me in the emergency room. Everyone in the emergency room seemed in shock, I looked like a monster. The emergency room people saved my life. I will be forever grateful. They were fast and efficient and kind. There was nothing impersonal there. I saw people who cared. Even when one is in shock, human concern can be seen. It is good to be home. Ciao Darteo
--------------------------------------------- June 21, 2009 Trying to type in this cast is a challenge. The computer behaves strangely. Taking care of myself alone in the house with only one useful arm is a whole new world, albeit frustrating. I wanted to answer your email, but you have no idea how long it is taking.
I thought about sinister outside force and decided that it was a bit far fetched after reviewing the events of the evening. I had been out for drinks in the center with friends. I met them at an outdoor cafe in Campo di Fiori. It all broke up very early for Rome about 11 pm. It was a Monday night, but summer nights in Rome are always lively. It was a full moon night and a bad moon for me as it turned out.
I just went walking, and I walk at a pretty good clip, up to the Capitoline Hill. I do this to stay in shape. If three guys were following me for an hour and a half I would have seen them, because I backtracked a bit, I stopped, it was just not possible. What is possible, is the drunken (and acting rather nutty eastern European guys) who asked me for a cigarette about 15 minutes earlier had something to do with it. It happened so fast I saw little. They could have followed me on this last leg of my journey. When they saw their opportunity, they pounced at an unlucky moment when the street was empty.
They came from behind. They made no sound. One dragged me down to the ground with an arm like a snake that came from behind and wrapped around my neck. He held me against his own chest, while the others punched me in the face. They said nothing to me or each other. I said nothing it was such a surprise. The first punch knocked me silly. I threw punches and kicks, but have no idea if they connected. I seemed to be stuck to the ground and could not get up. At one point I passed out flat on my back. I was awakened by my lower back arching up from the street. Instead of trying to unhook my fanny pack, the animal was just pulling it till it snapped. I instinctively grabbed it. I donít know what they did when I went unconscious, but my arm had broken then. I grabbed for the pack not knowing my arm was broken. I started yelling for help in Italian. One guy put his hand over my mouth, but then gave up. A young neighborhood guy came to my aid and the assailants ran off.
This was in the Jewish quarter near the library for American Studies. There are cameras all over the place for obvious reasons. I was brought, barely conscious, to the famous Fountain of the Turtles. The guy who rescued me, about age 20 something, kept talking to me until the police and the ambulance arrived rather quickly it seemed. I was sick to my stomach and too dizzy to keep my head up. My right arm lay limp on the fountain railing. My face was a horror of black and blue, broken teeth, and freely flowing blood. My rescuer kept telling me to wipe the blood away with some paper towel his mother had brought from one of the apartments above. She heard my cry for help and looked out the window. She saw the 3 assailants flee and sent her son down to help me. God bless her and him. My eye bled for three days.
I think my assailants thought I was a tourist and therefore easy to assault. Tourists go back home and leave the police with nothing to follow up on. When the tourist leaves not much can be done. Not much is ever done. Not much can be done.
As for me the police were on the scene in moments. They were in the emergency room with me. The hospital staff put an IV on me which woke me up while the policeman calmly and kindly asked me questions. The policeman interviewing me seemed interested and concerned. He told me to come to the police station when I felt better. The people who called the police told them there were cameras on the street. He showed little reaction, as if it might be a problem to get to the video. If the cameras were working the scene was photographed. I am hoping for this.
My stitches seem to have opened on my arm. I got some blood serum on the bandage. I better stop now. Darteo
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