The most poignant memory from yesterday is a smile. Anyone who focused in on it will never forget it. Dianne Sussman was on the stand. She is a 63 years old woman who lives in LA and is a consultant to school districts out there in California. She was much younger, as we all were, 40 years ago. A young woman in Boston working at Boston City Hospital as a dietician and looking forward to a 4 month fellowship out in Seattle and dating this young guy in Boston Louis.
Louis was a part-time bartender at Mother’s, a bar near North Station, where he worked with his friend Mike Milano, a young guy in his 20s from Winthrop who had just bought a new Mercedes. Mother’s was owned by Charles B. Raso, a gangster. Mother’s was where Dianne went to meet Louis that night after being at a belated birthday/going away party her friends had thrown for her.
Diane has been married thirty years and has two boys. She never married Louis Lapiano but someone named De Tennen. Louis died the same year as the terrorists knocked down the World Trade Center.
Louis would never walk again or do much else we all take as a given after that night he walked out of Mother’s with Dianne gaily clinging to his arm. They were heading back to his apartment in Brighton with her sitting happily in the front seat of Michael’s Mercedes playing with all the toys in it, Michael proudly driving his new car, and Louis with his long dark hair and big young man’s moustache sitting in the back seat. Oh to be 23 again in the days of the youthful rebellion in America with its freedoms and unbounded hopes for the future.
Louis and Michael joshed with each other over who was the better chess player. Little did they know that some heinous brutes were following them in a car with machine guns at the ready. These murderous thugs had mistaken them for someone else. These gangster led by John Martorano were planning to hit their car because the head Mafia guy in Boston Gerry Angiulo wanted a favor – and John always was glad to do favors for a friend of his as he testified.
They stopped at a light or stop sign in Brighton. Diane remembers the noise that seemed to go on forever, it was like someone “throwing rocks” at the car. The clamor stopped. So did Michael’s life, he was dead leaning on the steering wheel; so did Louis life – except he would survive but for all extents it ended that night. He was groaning softly leaning forward in the back seat. He was totally paralyzed. He’d never again walk with a holding him arm.
The smile that broke my heart – so unlike when cruel Martorano said his heart was broken, he only thinking of how things affected him – was seeing Dianne look at the picture of Louis from the time they were dating. In that magical smile I could see her youth again and see in that instance her being taken back to the happiness she had with the vibrant young man shown in that picture leaning back without a care in the world dressed as one did back then in the outrageous flamboyant clothes of the carefree youth of the early 1970s. To the last few days in America when the things were very different, but unlike today, different in a good way. To the type of ephemeral happiness one really knows just once in a lifetime.
Martorano, like all gangsters only thought of how things affect them. Nothing about the trail of horror they leave behind. They could look at her smile forever and not understand.
I saw in her smile, which I can picture as vividly now as when I first saw it, all the beauties of youth; the beauties that were stolen from her and so many others by Martorano and his gangster friends.
I’ve seen written that during Dianne’s testimony a juror or two shed some tears. I’m glad I had some company.