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The judge of conscience

Wednesday, May 23, 1992. The bells of the Cathedral of Palermo prepare to strike six in the afternoon and the inhabitants of the city, impatient for the imminent pealing, look at each other with the firm conviction that, a few minutes later, they will be able to leave their offices and return to the tranquility of home. Another day, they say to themselves. The weekend is getting closer and closer and that is always a reason for joy.

But suddenly, without warning, everything loses its meaning. Dozens of police cars, ambulances and firefighters turn on their sirens and speed through the streets towards the airport. Nearby, on a curve in the highway, the explosion of a device had caused the destruction of the road and three vehicles. Judge Giovanni Falcone was in one of them with his wife, Judge Francesca Morvillo. They both pass away.

Before them, many others suffered the same fate. Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, general of the Carabinieri, killed by a firearm. Mario Malausa, policeman, killed by explosive. Boris Giuliano, police chief of Palermo, shot dead. Silvio Corrao, police officer, killed by explosive. Cesare Terranova, judge, killed by a firearm. Rocco Chinnici, prosecutor, killed by explosive.

The list is endless. And the culprits, known to all. the thing nostra, sicilian Mafia, and his most feared capo, Salvatore Riina, nicknamed the Beast and, in his absence, because no one ever dared to utter this word in front of him, the Short, due to his small stature.

For many years, this gang of murderers, in collusion with some politicians and businessmen, came to control practically everything. From what had an appearance of legality, urban planning and administrative concessions, to the entirely criminal, drug trafficking. The money flowed and this allowed many to buy, more loyal to the vile metal than to the most elementary moral principles.

It was then that Falcone arrived who, as a Sicilian, as a Palermitan that he was, could not bear that his beloved Sicily was watered day after day with the blood of innocents. His life was in danger, he knew very well. Every morning when he woke up he was aware that this day could be his last. But he didn’t care. He did not ask for the transfer to another place. Being able to do so, he did not go to Milan or Rome. He preferred to stay and act as the judge that he was, defending legality and acting against those who, with manifest contempt for the lives of others, had been sowing terror for years.

From the municipality of Lentini, to the east of the island, he went to Trapani and then, after the murder of Judge Terranova, to Palermo. There he made a name for himself. Everyone knew that they were before a straight man, of noble principles. Like his deputy, Judge Paolo Borsellino, both inseparable, to the point that the same executors of the first, of Giovanni, days later also skewed Paolo’s life.

Falcone and Borsellino, Giovanni and Paolo. Two symbols of justice, of authentic justice, always straight and never for sale, administered without fear, regardless of the consequences of doing not only what a job demands, but, above all, what conscience dictates.

Thirty years have passed since that May 23 when Falcone left us, since that July 19 when Borsellino, after having lunch with his wife and children, went to his mother’s house and a vehicle parked in front of the house exploded. He and five of his escorts perished; among them, agent Emanuela Loi, the first Italian police woman to die in the line of duty.

Today the Palermo airport bears their names: Falcone-Borsellino.

They followed the path that many others had taken before. Many others followed them, not only in Italy, but also here, in our country, in Spain, plagued for so many years by terrorism.

Memory matters. It’s the only thing we have a left. The memory of those who are no longer there, of their faces, of their way of speaking. Memory stops dark oblivion. And if we resist abandoning it, Falcone and Borsellino will have won. We will have won because only by knowing our past will we be able to build a worthy future.

“Men pass, ideas remain and will continue to walk on the legs of other men” (Giovanni Falcone).