Posted by Liz
This is the email I wrote from Kosovo the week of the 9/11 attacks. It’s about what it was like to be in Kosovo during that time.
Written the week of 9/11/01:
We are 6 hours ahead of New York. Because our electricity is sporadic–turned on for a few hours and then off so it can be turned on in other areas–the people of Kosova found out at different times what was happening in the US. I was contacted immediately after the first incident by Mary Youngblood, who called me from Atlanta and continued to call me as events unfolded. An hour later, as electricity began working in some nearby areas, a local family who had just turned on their television and learned of what was happening called me. They asked me to come their home so I could watch the BBC which was broadcasting the events in the US. Because the broadcast was in English, they couldn’t understand most of it, but they were gathered around the television watching and learning what they could. When I arrived they were all close to tears. They put me next to the television and spoke to each other in low tones so that I could hear everything. They kept repeating, “this is so terrible”, “how could anyone do this?” “I feel so awful”, “how could this happen?”, “Liz, I am so sorry”. As with most of you, I was
in a state of shock, so it was good to be with close friends.
In the meantime, throughout the evening, as other Albanian families learned of what was happening, they called me on the telephone, and when I didn’t answer they came to my home to try to contact me. I didn’t find out about this until days later, because I stayed with my friends until it was late, but there were many people who were worried about me and trying to find me that night. They didn’t want me to be alone. And they wanted to be sure that I knew everything that it was possible to know at that point. They knew all too well what it is like to be afraid and worried about your country, your family and friends, not understanding what is happening or why people are doing what they are doing, and not to be able to find out if people you love are still alive. For the first time I had a glimpse of what they lived through for so many years.
That night, as people throughout Kosova learned of what had happened, they took to the streets. The BBC had broadcast not only what had happened in America, but the reactions of the people in countries who were rejoicing at America’s tragedy. I think that
the Kosovars were almost as upset about the rejoicing in these other countries as they were about what had happened in America. So the Albanians began holding demonstrations, in every city throughout Kosova, to show their support and love for America, and their denunciation of terrorism. All week long, day and night, these demonstrations were held. During the day people walked carrying American flags. At night people walked carrying candles. Or sat, holding silent vigils. On Friday, a national day of mourning was declared. All concerts, parties (including weddings) were cancelled. Discos were closed. The radio stations played nothing but classical music. American flags were flown everywhere. And that night, a music video was broadcast, to the song “God Bless the USA”, which showed all of the demonstrations throughout Kosova. I cried as I watched all of these expressions of love by so many people, old women and young children, former soldiers, teenagers, university students and old men, people of all ages and in so many different situations, coming together in their cities, towns and villages to show support and love for the US.
In Pristine, the capital city, posters saying “We’re with you, USA” are everywhere.
These pictures are from the main demonstration in Gjakove.
And every day, people that I don’t even know come to me and tell me how sorry they are about what happened. The most common statement is “We feel your pain as if it was our own; America is our brother. We love America so much, because America saved us.”
As for me, my emotions remain close to the surface, and I am constantly battling tears when people come to me to express their love and sorrow over what has happened. It is difficult to be so far from home right now, and yet I cannot imagine being in a place where I would be more surrounded by love. And concern. But I feel the need to express myself to other Americans.
So now, if I may, I offer some final words to you in the style of what I teach the children here, children who have witnessed such horrible acts of violence perpetrated against themselves, their families, their towns, and their country:
We must do what is right, but we must do it because it is right, not because of hatred. Once we allow ourselves to hate it is very difficult to stop. Living in a country devastated by a war which was made possible only by men learning to hate each other, I have come to see that the final devastation is not economic; it is not physical; the final devastation is in the hearts of the people, which, beginning with fear, grew cold in hatred, and now have no ability to trust.
We must not let this happen to us. We must not allow our fear to grow into hatred. Because in so doing we destroy ourselves. And each other. And our future.
The battle over anger is an individual one.