When I first met Enza Raco she was terrified of the media. She’d experienced the thirsty media pack at the most devastating time of her life. She’d been through so much pain, and didn’t want to talk publicly about it. That is, until the day the man who killed her husband, was sentenced. From that day on, she understood she could have a pivotal role in fighting for change. It’s easy to say her grief turned into anger, but that would suggest the grief had disappeared. It hadn’t. Over time, as she opened up to me privately about her story, she began to trust that we’d find a way to tell it with grace, respect and honesty.
That led us to the day of filming her main interview for Seven West Media. She arrived ready, but nervous. She had dropped 3-year-old Valentina at day-care, and was pushing baby Sofia in the pram. She was surrounded by her family, both for support and for babysitting duties. Before we sat down to talk on camera, she took a few minutes to breastfeed in private. This was a woman juggling the sorrow of losing her husband, with the realities of being a single mother. She pulled a pink notebook from her handbag. She’d spent the days leading up to her interview writing notes to herself. She’d finally decided to talk, and was certain she would only do one media interview. She didn’t want to blow the opportunity to get her message across.
Now, I’ve been interviewing people for more than 20 years. I’ve produced crime stories, celebrities and the odd royal wedding or two. But, there was something about this one that stood out. The honesty and the raw emotion of a widow dealing with so much avoidable anguish. I knew before we started there’d be tears, but what I wasn’t expecting was the complete numbness she felt. At times she explained the unbearable pain as feeling ‘nothing’. An emptiness. The more we spoke I started to understand that the numbness wasn’t coming out between the heartbreak, it was because of it. She sobbed as she spoke of the final moments with her husband. Then in the same breath, was able to tell me calmly and quite methodically what happened next. The roller coaster of emotions she conveyed throughout that interview, gave me the tiniest glimpse into her life over the past year. My job was to help her tell her story, in her words, and she did.
I wouldn’t normally show the subject of a TV special, the program before it goes to air. Normally we’re editing to the wire, and logistics and approvals make it almost impossible. But the rawness and honesty the Raco family showed me, the trust they instilled in a TV producer they had only known for a few months, compelled me to warn them about what they were going to see on TV.
We sat in a meeting room, on the editorial floor at Seven West Media. We looked to the big screen and I hit play. The echo of the opening few seconds, and the song “You are My Sunshine” played through the room. Enza was sitting behind me, I didn’t dare turn to see her reaction. But I heard her sniffling, and I imagined the tears rolling down her face.
Half an hour later, when the music faded, and the screen turned black, I looked back at her. We both had puffy eyes and mascara streaming down our cheeks. I was stunned as she stared at me with love, gratitude and sadness. There was silence, then she walked over calmy, gave me a hug and thanked me. She thanked me for telling her story, thanked me for telling Peppe’s story and thanked me for giving her little girls something to look back on. She thanked me for giving her a vehicle to make some sense of what happened. Then, she broke down. Those in the room who knew and loved Peppe were sobbing, and those (like me) who had never met him before sobbed with them.
In that moment I realised, this story was different for me. It got personal. Thanks Enza for trusting me with it.