by Sophia Smith
Anthony H. Gioia of Buffalo (pictured) embarked on his duties as U.S. Ambassador in Malta on Aug. 23, 2001. The afternoon of Sept. 11, he heard the shocking news of the devastating attacks in the U.S.
He and his entire staff were shaken to the core and on highest security alert. His personal secretary, Carolyn, was a seasoned veteran working abroad for many years with the State Department. She had seen many tense moments during her tenure: terrorism, bombings and more. But on this day, she was completely overcome and just couldn't compose her fears. She was so beside herself and hysterical after learning all the details of the attack, she said she was too scared to take the bus home from the American Embassy to her apartment in Malta.
Gioia offered to drive her home in his armored vehicle, which always flies the American flag whenever the ambassador is inside. Carolyn was still in hysterics as they hit the streets, and ordered the driver to remove the American flag that day. Gioia said, "Absolutely not! I am an American and proud of it today and every day - no matter what the consequences might be!"
With that, Carolyn tried to jump out of the car and walk the rest of the way, fearing an attack on the vehicle from the crowds in the streets. Mr. Ambassador acquiesced and let the driver remove the flag, but only until Carolyn exited the vehicle for her apartment. As soon as she was safely out of the car and in her building, Gioia ordered the driver to return the flag to its proper place of pride on the vehicle.
"I don't care what is going on in the streets and in the world today, I will always be honored to fly the American flag!" he said.
What an exemplary display of patriotism! We should all remember what an honor it is to be an American. No matter the political climate, we are always the standard bearer of democracy to the world.