Remembering Sarajevo: A Reunion of Journalists 20 Years Later


Of course a good deal of the journalists who were here, including many from ABC News, couldn't make it. And not every Bosnian I spoke to thought it was correct to hold an anniversary for something that is still a nightmare for many. But this is not a celebration. It's a commemoration for them -- and maybe for us too.

Friday the city has organized an open air concert. There will be 11, 541 empty chairs set up on Marshall Tito Boulevard, the main thoroughfare through the city which was better known as part of sniper alley during the siege. Each chair is for a person killed during those 44 months. The city's current residents will gather around on the sidewalks to listen to the performance of songs written by composers living in the city during that time.

I walk pass the hospital where I stood for hours years ago and watched people ferry the wounded from fierce rounds of shelling to the emergency room. Any car that had fuel would arrive at high speed to avoid being a target, then hurriedly off-load in the driveway outside. The front and back seats and even the trunk were full of wounded. On more than one occasion the driver brought the victim in and then raced back to his car to bring an arm, leg, or worse that had been blasted off. I also remember the brave pregnant women often delivering early from stress to small infants who are now the generation I see sipping coffee at the old town cafes.

A number of events have been organized for our visit. There will be a tour to the tunnel that smuggled out residents and smuggled in supplies. We heard often in those early years about the tunnel, but its secret was held tight. Towards the end of the war we received some video from friends who made it out that way. I wanted to see their path to relative safety that has now become a museum.

There is talk of a drive to Mt. Igman, the only way in and out of the city once the airport was closed for good by Serb guns. An American diplomat died on this treacherous road while trying to build a peace accord. I drove our vehicle into the city being shelled all around on more than one occasion, and I remember a terrifying solo run to rescue our ABC local producer when he was blasted off the road taking others out to safety.

Vedran Smailovic, the "cellist of Sarajevo," will play for journalists. His open air concerts at the National Library in all climates and during the grimmest days became the iconic photo that came to represent the residents' will.

A few journalists who made their names in this conflict will be back to give seminars, release new books, show old photos.

There will be a memorial service for those journalists who died there, and from those who went on to cover wars in other places because they felt they should after being eye witnesses to Bosnia. I will say a little prayer for an ABC News colleague, David Kaplan, who was killed by a sniper before I ever stepped foot in the city. I spoke to him from Belgrade before he boarded his flight in and he told me everything would be ok.

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