” A Day to Die, When The Sacrifice Opened The Door to Forgiveness” by Rocky Romano

0131152145-00 (1)This story is not real. It’s fiction. All the characters, names and situations that appear here do not exist. Any resemblance or likeness to this story is a complete and utter coincidence.

The day was cloudy and cool, elements that give the scene of this story, melancholy feeling,whose stillness pervaded the soul…as times omens of what would be unforgettable day in the small coast town of Seaside. That morning, Athol woke up like every morning at 6:00 am, he followed the  routine of every day, prepared the protein smoothie, drank it and went out of his house, stretched his body and trotted up gym, that was a block from his home. Upon entering the gym, everyone cheerfuly greeted Athol…he is the son of a famous Italian immigrants family, who lived for more than fifty years in this beautiful city, there had been born forty-five years ago, all the people loved him for his warmth and strength for hard  sports. Surround by free weights, Nigel asked, ” Athol, which part of your body, you have to train today?”  Athol, replied, ” Shoulders, biceps, chest and legs and then ten round of boxing..wanna try me?” Nigel, smiled and said, ” I m still an English gentleman, I never say NO to the challenges.” When he ended his workout, he headed back to his home, showered and dressed in his uniform security guard and he looked at the mirror and thought, ” Well..is not like being in the police..but, not too bad.” he checked his gun was properly charged, he headed to his car, before getting in it, looked at the sea, because, he lived near the coast. Admiring the  wonderful view, however for Athol it brought back tragic memories. Standing deep in thought at that moment of personal silence, ” Martino, my  brother, how, I could let you down that day, I do not deserve God’s forgiveness, not the forgiveness of my parents, I do not deserve my own forgiveness.” Twenty-years ago, when Athol was seventeen years old, his parents had to quickly travel  to Washington, State, Antonello, the boy’s father, spoke seriously , Athol, you are my eldest son, and for three days you will be responsible for the house and your younger brother, there will be days of stormy seas, so I implore you not to sail the boat, it is very dangerous , I do not want to you risk the life of your brother and yours…son, it’s an order, so  you must to promise me, you will obey me.” Athol, at the time replied, “Yes, Father, I will not disobey you, I’ll take care of my brother and of home,too.” His father hugged  him tenderly and said, “Son, I’m proud of you.” The first day of his father’s absence from all was  well…the second day, both boys woke up in the morning and watched the sea. The sea were calm and the boys were seduced by it. Athol, told his younger brother, ” Martino, you and me could enjoy a day of sea, I can perfectly navigate the boat, we could have a day of  fun..”  Martino, without hesitation interrupted him saying, ”No, never…you promised to daddy, not to disobey, not to navigate!” to which Athol, replied sarcastically, ” Come, on boy! He will never know.”

Martino, unconvinced by the challenging proposition of his older brother, accompanied  of  him on the  adventure of which he never returned. They took the rudimentary boat and went offshore…too far from the coast. Very worry, Martino said, “Athol, we are far away from the coast this frightens me I’m scare, please, we have to return!” Suddenly, a strong wind with high stormy waves were coming one  after another, tossing the small boat to and fro giving no respite to the brothers. Trying desperately to return the to shore, their strength  gave out of and the oars were too weak for such a struggle against the sea, the grey clouds turned black and  the fog covered the vision, they could not see the coast..were lost in the middle the monstrous storm, Martino in inconsolable tears sobbed Athol, “I was right, when I  told you, do not disobey our father! we will die! we will die, today!.”..The words sounded like a sentence, at that exactly moment, the sea responded with a tidal wave that completely covered  them..like telling them, “YES, DIE!”…Athol, achievement grasp some boat moorings and looked around to Martino, which had disappeared, Athol was terrified, screaming and crying, “Martino, Martino!! where are you?”, Martino never appeared,the dark waters swallowed him. Athol, cried and screamed, “Oh!! God, what, have I done? What, did I do, brother?”. After three hours of searching, the coastguard  found Athol, dying. The boat drifting in the sea, and when the officers boarded, heard him almost inaudibly, “Brother, what, I have I done to you?, God will not forgive me”.

It took many years following this tragic event, no one ever knew if their parents forgive him, no one made a single comment about that in that small town. After his retirement, his father Antonello, moved to New York, with his longtime companion, his wife Francesca, they never returned to Seaside, even though he had spent his whole life here…Athol,though, “I will never forgive to myself.”

He got in his car and headed to the bank where he worked as security officer. Athol worked with Shannon, business account manager. There were innocent glances with mysterious complicity between them. Neither of them knew whether if it was a kind love undeclared those who are saved as valuable gem in glass box never to be touched, “Hello Miss Shannon, how are you?” She replied sweetly, “Good.but . was increasingly more  uncomfortable with this pregnancy, and you?” He looked down and then stroked his badge and replied, “Fine, nothing  major happening  in my life.” Her eyes followed him as he walked away and left the scent of his perfume, the  traditional fragrance that he used every day after shave. She sighed and thought too late.

It was twelve o’clock noon, the usual routine in the bank had customers, including women with their children. At 12:15 pm, two men dressed in black suits entered the building. Athol  approached them  very courteous and professional said, “Good morning, gentlemen, take seat, please..! most of the employees are busy, very soon one of them, would be free to help you. Do you need special service.”One of them replied, “Yes we need to open a business account.” Athon, said, ” I need to inform you Miss Shannon will be able to assist you with that . They replied, “No problem, we will wait for her.” Athol went back to his place and watched them very discreetly. He noticed there was something very strange and suspicious about them, something that did not fit with the image of ” Businessmen”. Their shirts and ties weren’t neat, one of wore sneakers, their hands were too rustic, Athol had a sense of distrust, then, he went back to them and kindly said, ” Gentlemen,  allow me to begin the process to register following security procedures.”Then with a gesture of cooperation, they responded, “Of course.” “Just take a few minutes and I will return your IDs.” Everything seemed to be normal with their identifications. Central police informed  Athol, that both were prestigious businessmen who come from Los Angeles, California.  Athol  was reassured. Shannon approached the two men and invited them into her office. One of them said to the other, “Donovan, go, I will wait for you, right here.” This disturbed Athol and he wondered why one of them would just wait. Quickly, he went to his office to see the guestbook and realized that his feelings had been correct, neither one of them was name Donovan. ” Oh, my God!” Athol scurried quickly to the hall of the bank, but was too late, The prospective visitor, was already standing at the door of the bank with Uzi 9 mm machine gun, which has extracted from his big briefcase, the other come out of the office and had a magnum 9 mm on the Shanon’s head. Everyone in the bank into panic, all the children were screaming and crying. Donovan, one of the bad guys, said aloud, ” Nobody move, raise your hands! this is an assault and you are all hostages.” The other by the name Dennis, pointed directly to Athol and said, “You idiot, slowly, take your gun, with the fingers of your left hand and place it on the floor very carefully, otherwise you’re dead man!” Athol had not doubt that Dennis was very serious, so put the gun down very carefully as the assailant had indicated, then with hands up, he looked around and did a count of all who were there Seven bank employees, of which one of them  woman in a advanced state of pregnancy,, customers four women, three children around five to six years of age, five middle-aged men, were a total of twenty people including Athol, who had taken hostage.

Both assailants had all the hostages sitting against a wall with their hands behind their heads while threatened; Donovan grabbed cell phones from each hostage. Shannon was located coincidentally next to Athol and remained quit in a hush whisper, “I will be a single mother, my boyfriend abandoned me, as soon as he knew that I was pregnant, I believed in love but, I was wrong about him, he is a selfish, I always had my eyes on you,.how I could been so wrong!?.Athol, looked deeply into her eyes, and in his gaze everything was said, there was no need to add one word more, in that look expressed all the love, the passion and strong attraction that, he felt for her unable to express it long ago, however added, “What’s that a confession?” Tears flowed from her eyes as she raised his head, looked at him and said, “Yes, it is.”

At the time, the local police sirens and the FBI were heard, they were already there. A police officer’s voice come over loudspeaker it was official Robert Pollak, ” The FBI negotiator will contact with you by phone and part of this negotiation will use an intermediary to security agent, Athol.” The phone rang repeatedly, both men were very nervous, finally, Donovan said,” Yes, I hear. The FBI agent was talking, “My name is Gary Boone I am the man that, will negotiate with you. I see that the old trick of stolen IDs worked once again. With whom I speaking?” and the bad guy response, ” Donovan, my name is Donovan,”  The agent Boone said, “As part of this negotiation, I need to talk with the security agent Athol,..please, put him on the line.” Donovan, replied, “Gary, I will be clear with you, very clear!! We are in charge of this situation and you will do everything we ask you or no one will leave here alive.” Then, he called Athon in this way, “Hey, you idiot bastard come here, you will not say one other other word or message in code, or you will die!!.”  Athol, take the tube, “Yes, I am Athol.” the agent repeat his name, “I am Gary Boone, the agent negotiator, appreciate your cooperation in this situation, are you okay?.and tell me exactly , how many are the hostages, men, women and children.” Athol, replied, ” Nice too meet you agent Boone, I feel good…in beautiful gathering of friends.” he smiled and added, “The hostages are twenty. including me, including three children around five to six years old, five women, one of them in heavily pregnant, she is a bank employee and twelve men, seven of whom are bank employees.” The agent Boone said, ” Athol, I studied your personal story, I know who you are, please! do not try anything by yourself , this situation needs more than boxing punches, okay?” Athol, replied, “Okay, I get your point , just a question…Gary, do you believe in God?” The agent Boone replied, “Sure, I believe in Him, let me to confess something, before I act on this issue I put this situation in the hands of Him.” Athon added, ” So everything will be fine.” At that moment Donovan, removed the tube rudely and sternly replied, “Enough, idiot!!” Then he told the FBI agent Boone, “Do not waist time, in two hours we want an armored car, two million dollars in cash and plane to take us to the border of Mexico, in this damn bank there isn’t enough cash!” “you have our conditions if not in two hours the first hostage dies.” Both men were so nervous Dennis told Donovan, “Brother, be calm, we need to calm down, this will help us.” Then, they took small bags of cocaine from their pockets and desperately sucked the deadly poison that not only kills the body, also kills the spirit. Athon, knew the situation would worsen under the influence of drugs and decided to enact his own plan. The criminals were irritated with eyes red as well as their faces and Donovan’s nose was bleeding.

Athol has the inspiration of how to manage their selfish arrogant feelings of power. Actually, he perceived the two criminals were full of fear and insecurity. Athol raised his hands up as a sign of peace and said, “Hey, guys, I can think that this could help you have the power to handle this situation, I think you are right now, the owners of mercy, what if you show the police, you are not so bad.” Dennis irately asked, “What do you mean cowardly idiot?” Athol feigned fear and respect explained, “I mean that if you show the police  bit of good will, I am sure they will expedite your order,” Donovan, interrupted, “doing what?” Athol entrusted to God in silence and said in brave voice, “Freeing women and children, let them go as a gesture of cooperation, the message for them will be clear,” I COOPERATE THEN, YOU COOPERATE” “You will have the rest of us, twelve men, twelve lives, for the authorities are still important, remember this is America, as you can see, you keep the power”. Dennis looked wide-eyed his brother Donovan, who, was dropping an ugly smelly spit from his mouth and gave disgusting look  and said, “Brother, you see this bastard is trying to lead us pretend be our lead I think it deserves a lesson.” Donovan, gave the approval, “Come, brother show this bastard who commands!” Dennis shouted at Athol, “You idiot whom do you intend to save, show us how good you are, show your respect for us,kneel and beg us, kneel bastard!” Athol calculated this in his mind, he knew exactly what was coming and was prepared for it. He flexed his muscle sin his strong body, Dennis gave Athol the first slap and fell to his knees, saying, ” I implore your mercy for the women and children.” Dennis replied, “Damn , you bastard is not enough!!” while applying two strong kicks to Athol abdomen and fell to the floor, writhing in pain, Dennis continued, ” Get on your knees and beg again, do it!! you cowardly idiot!” Athol struggled to his knees and again, “Please, I beg you, I beg you let free the women and children, I beg you.” Donovan, interrupted, “Dennis, enough for now, we need this bastard alive, it’s not a bad idea, liberate the children and women, as if it were our own idea, and we can demand that our terms are met now.”

Athol spit blood, Shannon tried to approach to him with the purpose to help him, then one of them said, “You pregnant woman, go back to your place!” Donovan ran up the tube, “Agent Boone, as a gesture of goodwill, we will liberate children and women, but first we want to see, the armored car in front of the bank or everyone will die here today.” The experience FBI agent replied, “In just minutes we will park the car in front of the doors of the bank, no cheating, it is my promise and will be ready to welcome the children and women, that is the agreement. I respect the agreements.” Donovan felt confidence in the words of Gary Boone, and said, “Okay, it’s a deal.” Donovan looked at the hostages and said, “Children and women will be free as soon as the armored car is parked. The rest will remain here.” Athol, sighed, the plan was working. The phone rang again, hastily, Donovan took the tube, “Yes”, the bargaining agent said, “If you look out the front window, you will see that we are parking the car shielded by the money, we need forty minutes more please!! Release the children and women and, I need to talk with Athol.” Donovan replied, “For the money, nor one minute more, just forty minutes.” He called Athon. “Hey coward, come closer.” Boone, asked, “Athol, how are you?” Athol, answered, “I m badly beaten, but I’ll survive.” Agent Boone told him, “It was your idea to free the children and women. We have microphones long distance we are aware of everything going on there.” Athol, responded to this, “does not matter I have a debt to pay for taking a life. I will see that the children and women arrive safely to you.” Athol ended the communication and headed toward the two men as they were inhaling cocaine again and said, “With your permission, I will accompany children and women out.” Dennis replied while laughing nervously, “Sure chicken you can do it.”

The moment had arrived, Athol opened the door and children, went out one by one, the last to leave, put his small hand into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a candy, and gave it to Athol saying, “Thanks, you’re my favorite hero. This is a secret if you eat this magical treat no one can harm you.” Athol smiled winking and said, “Thank you, you bet.” Children were greeted by police agents  and taken to safe place. It was time for the five women walking in rows one after the other. Shannon was last in line. As each exited, the stopped to hug Athol as gesture of thanks. When it was Shannon’s turn to exit, something unexpected, Donovan pointed his gun the head of Athol and said, “She will not leave or you die!, she is our guarantee to get out, a pregnant woman our guarantee to get to the border Mexico. Close the door, you coward! The expression of Athol, completely changed, his face and his eyes resembled that of wild wolf, then Donovan, started to laugh, “Hey, Dennis, take care of the hostages and do not lose sight of any of them, I will deal with with this idiot.” Athol stared at Donovan’s eyes and said, “it was agreed, she will  be released.”  Suddenly, Athol, raised his left hand taking Donovan’s wrist grabbing his arm the gun went off shooting the ceiling. It happened so quickly, Donovan couldn’t prevent it..Athol swiftly punched Donovan, who now  was semiconscious. Athol now had the gun and shouted at Shannon, “Get out of here, now, do not waste time!” There was no time for goodbyes. Agents escorted Shannon to safety. While inside, Dennis fired a round of ammunition, “Damn you killed my brother!” Donovan and Athol severely wounded. FBI agents was instant and professional. The agent Gary boone knelt before the body of Athol, was still alive, paramedics and doctor were there with all equipment to save his life, Gary said to Athol, “Boy, good job!! You’re a hero, everything will be fine stay with me, do not close your eyes, stay with me!” Dr. Satre, examined the fatal wounds and looked into Gary’s eyes gesturing that nothing could be done, Athol said quietly and broken, “Gary, thanks for this opportunity to care of this. Martino, my younger brother, and has come to get on a beautiful white boat, he is smiling, he tells me that he had forgiven me, not bad feelings.”

Gary with tears in his eyes, knew the story of Athol, he said, “God had already forgiven you, too you must forgive yourself, look at!! the sacrifice you have done. You deserve your own pardon.” Athol, looked at him and smiled sweetly with relief and tenderness in his eyes and said,”Thank you! I have to go…Martino, is inviting me into the boat.” Clinging tightly to Gary, took a deep breath and then, at that moment his heart stopped beating. Gary stroked his hair and embraced Athol’s body and said, “Sorry, kid believe me, I’m sorry.”

A week later, on cloudy and cool day, two people were in front of the tomb of Athol, whose epitaph was saying, “Athol, rest in peace, this day will be remembered, because the sacrifice opened the door of forgiveness.” Gary and Shannon were there. The agent with an irrefutable career with the FBI told the girl, ” This has taught me that forgiveness toward ourselves must be accompanied by changes, which show our total dedication and service to our neighbor, leaving behind personal selfishness forever. I learned that forgiveness purifies us whether taking new and positive commitments with life becoming magnificent givers. Maybe you think, givers of material things? Yes, maybe time to involving some of them, but also givers of our hearts, love and time. Throughout my career in the FBI, I never saw anything like an act of heroism seeking personal forgiveness. I retired feeling old and tires…and I cannot take this.”

Shannon placed a bouquet of flowers and card which read,”We love you.” asked him, “So, what you will do now?” Gary replied, “I will enjoy my family and write a book, how about you, dear Shannon?, she replied, “Raise my son to be born in the next week and focus on providing the best life for my little one.” Gary sighed and smile, and asked her, ” Do you have a name for the baby?” she answered, “Athol, his name will be Athol, as the man saved both of our lives. How could ever forget him?” Then, they left the place…a slight wind blew and Gary shuddered. At the end the day, an old resident  of this small and beautiful town returned offshore stunned by what had lived. While drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace, he told his friends what happened, ” I was not far from the coast, hopping that the networks are filled, when my assistant told me, “Ben, look how beautiful white and shiny boat..”  When I look, went into the pot two young boys, looked very happy brought me the image of Athol and Martino many years ago, you remember them?” All present nodded in remembrance, Ben continued , “To our surprise, the boat began to disappear behind a bright light while this was happening, hear the dialogue of the two boys, “Athol, look at this, is a beautiful place, I’m so happy, today that you’re with me, I always was waiting for you….Me too, Martino, I’m happy to be with you from here to eternity.”.


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