9/11 survivor plants new life in Brevard

Enzo Ardovini sells olive oil and other Italian products at farmers markets in Brevard County.

 

Twenty years later, 9/11 still haunts Enzo Ardovini. There’s the memory loss, images of body parts mixed with wreckage and the aches and pains of injuries and the aftermath of surgeries.

Ardovini did the right thing when he charged in with firefighters to help during the hours right after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. He knew people who might be trapped and still alive.

A day later, maybe two, he fell between the concrete and steel beams in what was left of a parking garage near the North Tower. The memory is a blur, as is a lot of the past.

Ardovini was an architect who designed buildings near Wall Street for Oppenheimer. That career came to a halt after the fall.

“How long I was there, I can’t tell you,’’ said Ardovini, a 69-year-old Palm Bay resident who sells olive oil and other Italian delicacies with his wife Susan at various farmers markets around Brevard County. “I had a broken shoulder and ribs. They took me to St. Vincent’s, but transferred me somewhere else because they didn’t know how many more people would be brought there.’’

Doctors thought Ardovini suffered from PTSD.

“I’d drive past my house and not recognize it,’’ said Ardovini, who came to the United States in the mid-1960s at the age of 15 from Italy. “I saw psychologists and psychiatrists and I was in a hospital for rehabilitation in January, February, March, April and May. It was actually a mental hospital.’’

His first wife eventually left him when he could no longer work competently as an architect.

Ardovini came to Brevard County right after the hurricanes of 2004 to volunteer. He was diagnosed with dementia.

“Doctors said the toxic fumes kept oxygen from reaching my brain and affected the left side of my brain which makes decisions and calculates.’’

When Ardovini started conducting trips to Italy for tour groups, doctors in Rome conducted new medical tests.

“They came back with good news and bad news,’’ said Ardovini, who has undergone radiation treatment to remove various tumors. “The bad news was that I had brain damage. The good news was that it wasn’t dementia. It was not progressive.’’

Before the pandemic, Ardovini made regular trips to Italy to tend to his 1,300 trees and make olive oil. He grew up in Vallecorsa, a small town in the mountains between Rome and Naples. He still travels to Italy when he can.

The farm lost a lot of its trees to a bad frost in 1985.

“We like to take small groups, no bigger than eight people, to show them the homeland,’’ Ardovini said. “We spend five days in Rome, five days at the farm and five days on the Amalfi Coast. Most of the meals are at people’s homes. We stay at monasteries and live the way we did. We’ll pick olives and make olive oil. We’ll pick grapes and make wine. We’ll show them how the cheese is made.’’

Besides the farmers markets, Susan Ardovini’s pasta is available at the Green Turtle.

“She makes pasta the way we used to make it fresh in Italy,’’ Ardovini said. “I’ve told her that she can use me as a guinea pig every time to taste it.’’