The Children’s Bell Tower stands tall in Bodega Bay, California, an oceanside community that helped raise little Nicholas Green in the early 1990s.
Nicholas was only 7 years old when he was killed on a family trip to Italy. The Green family was the victim of a botched robbery, their car mistaken for a jeweler’s in an ill-fated mistake that cost young Nicholas his life.
But at that horrible moment, something beautiful happened: his parents decided to donate his organs and corneas, a gift that benefitted seven people in Italy, including four teenagers.
Prior to the incident, Italy had one of the lowest organ donation rates in Europe, but after the press and attention the Green family’s decision received, it soared. In Italy, they dubbed the phenomenal increase l’Effetto Nicholas – the Nicholas Effect.
Not to be outdone, Bodega Bay erected a bell tower in the boy’s memory…with some amazing help from the Italians. It’s three nested towers contain 140 mismatched bells, the majority donated by schools, churches, ships, and mines across Italy.
The impressive center bell was cast by the Marinelli foundry, who have been responsible for forging papal bells for over 1,000 years, and it is inscribed with the names of the organ’s recipients. Pope John Paul II even blessed it!
All of the bells were flown to California by the Italian Air Force.
The story is incredibly sad, as are all stories of lives cut tragically short, but in the ringing of the bells, I can’t help but think that people hear hope. As someone who’s sister is alive today because of someone else’s selfless final gift of organ donation, I know that I do.
h/t: Atlas Obscura
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