“We are building a new bridge!” Salvatore cried out, as dozens of cheering supporters gathered just a few feet away from the USS Constitution in Charlestown.
Salvatore’s 16-mile swim across the Boston Bay finished shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 22. It was the seventh stage of his 4-year “Swimming in the Seas of the Globe” initiative, during which he is reaching out to the world’s top scientists and researchers — as well as politicians and communities supporting his cause — that can make a difference for physically disabled individuals like himself.
Salvatore, 48, had his right leg amputated above the knee at the age of 14 after doctors discovered he had osteosarcoma. The Torre Annunziata native then spent most of his life on what he describes as an obsolete prosthetic limb, and started swimming for therapeutic purposes in 2005.
The Boston swim took little over seven hours. Salvatore dove into the water around 6:15 a.m., at UMass Boston, and then swam his way around several islands to finally get to Charlestown.
Fatigued but radiant with happiness, Salvatore sat for a few minutes on the dock, sipping warm tea. “In certain spots, the water was extremely cold,” he told his longtime partner Stefania, who traveled all the way from Rome with other family members to support Salvatore.
“From UMass Boston we went under the Long Island Bridge,” said Ed Peduto, who followed Salvatore on the boat operated by captain Chris Sweeney. The boat accompanied Salvatore all the way. “Then we passed Rainsford Island, around Georges Island and down through what they call the Narrows.” The swim then proceeded on the airport side of the North Channel, finishing off with the North End and finally the Charlestown dock.
The route was designed by Greg O’Connor, president of the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association.
“We deviated a little,” said O’Connor, showing a map with dotted and straight lines he drew to keep track of Salvatore’s swim. “He swam 25 kilometers.”
The Boston swim was possible thanks to a collective effort and support from the local Italian and Italian American communities, as well as from prestigious academic centers such as MIT. Among Salvatore’s supporters is Professor Hugh Herr of the Biomechatronics Lab at MIT, one of the leading figures in the world in research and development of prosthetic limbs.
Among the crowd waiting for Salvatore’s arrival, were North End business owners Filippo Frattaroli and Domenico Susi, along with friends Alberto Mustone and Rocco DiRenzo, all of whom have supported Salvatore since day 1 of his extended Boston visit. Additional support was given by various Italian American organizations, like the Sons of Italy, who cheered Salvatore on from the boat as he swam across the Boston Bay.
A group of MIT students belonging to the Italian-focused MITaly group also showed up, along with members of COMITES, Italia Unita, and the Pirandello Lyceum. All supporters joined Salvatore for an after-swim celebration at Filippo’s Ristorante in the North End.
Now Salvatore will head back to Rome, where he works and lives, and will start practicing once again to prepare for the next swim, which will take place in Australia. But local supporters will have a chance to see Salvatore from up-close again, when he comes to New York in June 2014. Until then, grazie Salvatore!