- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Georgetown's Cafe Milano was the scene of an elegant fund-raising brunch on Sunday for New York City's bravest, the firefighters who risked their lives protecting people in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Patrons, who paid $50 apiece to dine on seafood, salads and pasta specialties in addition to high-end breakfast fare, were unanimous in agreeing that people need to patronize their usual haunts as one way of getting back to their normal routines.

Restaurant owner Franco Nuschese, who bustled about his restaurant thanking guests for their generosity in contributing $25,000 to the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund, said he had been in New York the day before the attack.

Like everyone else, he was stunned by the horrific headlines. But he soon felt the need to act.

"I called all of my friends and vendors," Mr. Nuschese said in his gentle Italian accent. "I had such a successful response. People said, 'What can we do for you?'"

Donations and silent auction items flooded in right up to the morning of the brunch, including 200 finely crafted U.S. flag pins by local jewelerAnn Hand. Cellina Fuchs Barth, owner of Merano Water and Menabrea Birra, contributed numerous antique silent auction items, sparkling water and beer to the cause in addition to paying for at least a dozen friends to come.

A thick column of red, white and blue balloons and a gorgeous floral centerpiece in the same patriotic colors greeted the 250-strong crowd that included Colombian Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno, former Chief of Protocol Lloyd Hand, Ritz-Carlton Hotels Chairman Bill Tiefel and Norma Kline Tiefel, Deborah Sigmund, Carmen and Hal Petrowitz and Herbert Haft.

Maltese Ambassador George Saliba reflected on America's unified front in the face of adversity.

"You squabble and fight during normal times," he said. "But the country has always been united. That's good to see. If you're divided, you're giving comfort to the enemy."

"The most important thing is for people to get on with their lives," Mr. Saliba said. "Then, the economy will start moving again."

One of many guests dining alfresco, Capital Corporation owner Hani Masri, marveled at how partisan politics dissipated following the attacks.

"It's great to see the unity between all the political parties," Mr. Masri said, looking hale in a crisp white shirt befitting the unseasonably warm weather.

In his opinion, that benevolent spirit should extend to the nation's economy.

"It's every American's duty to travel and not to sit at home," he said, adding that while he personally has been going out to restaurants he has noticed about "30 percent less business" in the days since the attack.

Mr. Tiefel sounded a realistic note about the country's economic resilience.

"I don't see us bouncing back quickly, but I do see us bouncing back," Mr. Tiefel said, pointing to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a key factor in our resurgence.

"It's [the citys] gateway to the world," he said of the airport closed after the terrorist attacks. "I don't think Dulles and Baltimore will suffice."

Georgetown resident Eileen Curran was visiting New York when the two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center's towers. She saw firsthand the reaction from once cynical New Yorkers.

"All the common courtesies are there, everybody was very helpful," Ms. Curran said. "It was a very controlled chaos."

"Even though the magnitude of this is so great, people still want to help out where they can."

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