One man's 'mirror for America'

Naturally, Cornel Nistorescu writes his column in Romanian - he is, after all, managing director of Evenimentul Zilei, which means News of the Day and is an influential newspaper in Romania.

So he was more than a little startled when he started getting e-mails from the United States about a column he wrote in late September. He wrote the columne after watching a telethon, broadcast from Los Angeles, to raise money for victims of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.


He had called the column 'An Ode to America' ("Cintarea AmericiI"). And when he began getting e-mails from the United States about it, he realized it had been translated and put on the Internet in a big way. At last count, he had received 30,000 e- mails of thanks and praise, mostly from the United States.

"It's unbelievable," says Nistorescu, who was in Washington the other day covering a visit of the Romanian prime minister. "It's incredible how a text published in Romanian became a mirror for America."


Moved by the spirit of the telethon, Nistorescu, who has been a newspaperman for 25 years and writes on an old-fashioned type writer, began trying to figure out for himself what America was all about. He described his conclusions in the "Ode."

"I was shocked by the reaction to the attack, the way people came together," he says. "Americans rediscovered themselves as a nation and as a great power."

James C. Rosapepe, who was United States ambassador to Romania for three years until returning in April, was not surprised by the simple power of the column.

"Romanians are very creative people," he says, "and Cornel is a very good writer."

Rosapepe knew Nistorescu in Romania. He became aware of the column when he started receiving e-mails about it in the United States. "It's gone around the Internet at a hundred miles an hour," he says.

Rosapepe, a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, says Nistorescu reminded Americans that they have many friends in the world, a message that arrived when they were feeling vulnerable.

"For Cornel to speak up so eloquently as a friend of Americans," he says, "touched many people."

Nistorescu has understandably strong feelings about American ideals such as freedom and democracy. His country was occupied by the Soviet Union after World War II. Romania became a communist "people's republic" in 1947.


The dictator-president, Nicolae Ceausescu, was overthrown and executed in 1989. Until 1996, former Communists dominated the government.

The current prime minister, Adrian Nastase, was in Washington to discuss Romania's economic and democratic progress. He and his country are hoping that as NATO expands, Romania will be included.

Ode to America

Why are Americans so united? They don't resemble one another even if you paint them! They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations. Some of them are nearly extinct, others are incompatible with one an other, and in matters of religious beliefs, not even God can count how many they are.

Still, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart. Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the army, the secret services that they are only a bunch of losers. Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed on the streets nearby to gape about. The Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand. After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colors of the national flag. They placed flags on buildings and cars as if in every place and on every car a minister or the president was passing. On every occasion they started singing their traditional song: "God Bless America!"

Silent as a rock, I watched the charity concert broadcast on Saturday once, twice, three times, on different TV channels. There were Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, Robert de Niro, Julia Roberts, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Sylvester Stallone, James Woods and many others whom no film or producers could ever bring together. The American's solidarity spirit turned them into a choir.


Actually, choir is not the word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul. What neither George W. Bush, nor Bill Clinton, nor Colin Powell could say without facing the risk of stumbling over words and sounds, was being heard in a great and unmistakable way in this charity concert.

I don't know how it happened that all this obsessive singing of America didn't sound croaky, nationalist or ostentatious! It made you green with envy because you weren't able to sing for your country without running the risk of being considered chauvinist, ridiculous or suspected of who-knows- what mean interests. I watched the live broadcast and the rerun of its rerun for hours listening to the story of the guy who went down one hundred floors with a woman in a wheelchair without knowing who she was, or of the Californian hockey player who fought with the terrorists and prevented the plane from hitting a target that would have killed other hundreds or thousands of people.

How on earth were they able to bow before a fellow human? Im perceptibly, with every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes. And with every phone call, millions and millions of dollars were put in a collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit which nothing can buy.

What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases which risk of sounding like commonplaces. I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion.

Only FREEDOM can work such miracles!