My life is mapped out: it is my destiny to take a bullet by the Mafia some day. The only thing I don't know is when.
Falcone knew the Mafia would kill him one day because he spent most of his life trying to break their violent stranglehold on his native Sicily. He and his closest friend, Paolo Borsellino, both came from the middle class seaport district of La Kalsa in Palermo, which was bombed by the Allies when they were babies. They played soccer together as boys. Some of their team mates grew up to be Mafiosi. But they met again at the University of Palermo, studied law, and became Judice, prosecuting magistrates. When they joined the fight against the mafia, they knew what they were getting themselves into. They had seen their colleagues murdered. But they were not willing to stand by and let the criminals get away with murder and ruination of Sicilian society. They put their lives on the line.
The relentless Falcone led the most successful prosecution of Mafia criminals in Italian history, the Maxi Trial of 1986-87, which led to the conviction of 360 thugs.
After several failed attempts to take his life, the Mafia finally did their worst: on May 23, 1992, they planted a half-ton bomb under the highway between the Palermo airport and the city center and detonated it as Falcone’s car passed, killing him, his wife Francesca Morvillo, and three body guards.
Less than two months later, another car bomb assassinated Borsellino, along with five policemen.
Afterwards, posters appeared all over Sicily, that read, “You did not kill them: their ideas walk on our legs.” The Sicilian people have kept that promise. More than twenty years later, memorial photos of Falcone and Borsellino still adorn every public bus in Palermo. There are plaques dedicated to them and their work at the airport in Palermo and in the U.S. FBI headquarters. The Facebook page for Sostenitori Delle Forze Dell'ordine, an organization devoted to efforts against organized crime, regularly displays their photos and their words.
Both men were awarded the Medaglia d’oro al valore civile (the gold medal for civil valor). In 2006, Time Magazine listed them as heroes of the previous 60 years.
The story of these heroes is the subject of the best true-crime book I’ve ever read, “Excellent Cadavers,” by Alexander Stille. The name of the book comes from the phrase "excellent cadavers" (cadaveri eccellenti) or "illustrious corpses," used in Italy when referring to high-profile victims of the Mafia such as politicians, judges and police chiefs (as opposed to less public victims claimed by day-to-day Mafia business). It was made into an HBO movie starring Chazz Palminteri.
The Mafia is a human phenomenon and thus, like all human phenomena, it has had a beginning and an evolution, and will also have an end. — Giovanni Falcone
Annamaria - Monday