The Long Forgotten Lion - (From my adventures in Rome on a research trip during my music composition studies at Royal Holloway, University of London)
In 1943 the North African campaign was coming to an end. My father was now leaving North Africa to be stationed in Italy to be part of the newly assigned United States Army Air Force Mediterranean campaign. He, like so many other young American soldiers, left their lives in the United States to help save a dream called freedom for their country and loved ones, and at that moment, for most of the European continent as well. In the midst of my father’s time served in Europe, he was photographed sitting on a fountain of a likeness of a Lion somewhere in Italy. The picture had little meaning to me as a child, but after his death in 1987, the picture became a poignant reminder of the most turbulent and memorable time of his youth. I made the decision to someday find the fountain on the old and faded postcard, not only for myself, but as a “connection” that tied my present life and his legacy that at that moment in my life only existed in many vivid memories from my youth . The stories of his time during the war filled my childhood with wonderment and curiosity, and at times, I felt that I had lived a part of that very defined and difficult time of his life and the history of our country.
On my spring break in 2006, I had the opportunity to visit Rome, Italy. My trip was centered on research that I was doing in music composition at the time for my school in London. I studied at the well known Academia of Santa Cecilia in the heart of Rome, and I also had in the back of my mind the statue of the Lion that I hoped I might find during my research trip to Europe. The first two days were quite disappointing with many people offering suggestions to where the statue might be located, but no one recognized the great Lion that was the source of puzzlement to me for such a long time. On the last day of my trip, we visited the “Trevi Fountain” in the heart of Rome and I happened to notice two policemen standing near by the fountain. I showed them the picture and one of the policemen instantly recognized the statue. The Lion was one of five Lions that set proudly in front of the Grand Hotel about ten minutes away from where we were standing.
As we approached the hotel, my wife stopped and said she thought she saw the Lion as a bus had just passed in front of us. My heart dropped as I realized that my dream was about to become a reality. I was actually standing at the fountain my father had discovered over sixty years before. As I walked toward the fountain I could clearly visualize my father climbing up on the Lion and posing for a postcard that was soon to be sent home to his family. As I climbed on the majestic Lion, my first thought was of the circle that had been completed in my life. I realized how deeply America had influenced the world and also the sacrifices that so many had given to allow me the opportunity to experience this brief and touching moment in my life.
At that moment, I saw my life in a much deeper perspective than I ever had in the past. My life was a gift that was the result of the actions of so many others before me. A gift that was given to me and needs to continue to be shared with others throughout my life. My life is now the reflection of the legacy that my father’s generation fought so hard to secure. The circle had indeed been completed and my memories became reality on that chilly day at the Grand Hotel as I set on the majestic Roman “Long Forgotten Lion.”