August 1980 – Close Call in Bologna – Terrorism Nearly Took My Family

Bologna Massacre Italiano: Strage di Bologna, ...

The day I nearly lost my two beautiful daughters.

“Don’t worry about us, Dad. Mauro and his family will look after us. We’ll see you in Paris,” my two daughters told me as I left them in Rome. They were 18 and 19 and were going to spend a few more days in Italy then go camping with their friends in Nice. I was going to attend a meeting of the International Society for Business Education in Mainz, Germany.  We were to meet in Paris a couple of weeks later. When I finally did meet Lori and Gena at the Gare Nord, my jaw dropped when I heard their story.

Three days after I left them , they took the train from Rome on their way to join their friends in Nice. There were no seats available so they had to sleep on the floor of the train. At about 7:30 the next morning, they arrived in Bologna where they were to change trains. They were tired and hungry. As they left the train carrying their backpacks, they made their way to the main part of the terminal. They looked around to decide where to have breakfast. The pretty redhead and blonde walked into the train station restaurant and were surprised to find German and Scandinavian men having a morning drink at the bar.  In addition, there was the usual complement of papagayos, the legendary Italian males who hang around in public places and call out to tourist girls like a parrots, or papagayos in Italian, and sometimes pinch girls as they pass by.

Since it was obvious to the two girls that this was not the place to have their breakfast, they walked out of the restaurant and asked a conductor where they could put their backpacks. He directed them to a series of lockers down the hallway. After depositing their belongings, they turned around and exited the front of the station and made their way down the street about a block and a half. They found an outdoor cafe and ordered cappuccinos and a typical Italian breakfast of rolls with jam and butter.

At 8:03 AM, there was a loud explosion. The earth shook and the tables rattled. Being from California, the girls thought at first it was an earthquake. But then, everyone around them began running down the street to the train station. Confused and curious, they reluctantly began following the crowd. When they arrived at the station, they saw that the entire front of the station had collapsed. Smoke and debris and sirens were everywhere.


It was the beginning of a very long day for Lori and Gena. They stood under the hot Italian sun for six hours watching the rescue crews bring out one limp, bleeding body after another. Finally, they were able to find their way into the wreckage of the building to retrieve their backpacks from the lockers. It wasn’t until the following day they found out what had happened. A Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization called the Red Brigade, Brigate Rosse had left a time-bomb in the air conditioned waiting room. Terrorism is not new. Eighty five people were killed that day and more than 200 injured. Had it not been for the annoying papagayos, the death toll would have been eighty seven and I would’ve lost my two beautiful daughters.    

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