October 5, 2000

Fifteen years ago today Serbian president Milosevic fell from power.  It was a day of great joy and celebration.  On October 5 Milosevic fell, on October 6 I tried to get a Serbian visa, the embassy was closed.  On October 8 I wrote this letter, on October 9 I got my visa to return to Serbia, the man who had turned down my visa request numerous times smiled and said “We were waiting for you Mr. McClear.” and on October 10 was back in Serbia.  Here is my family letter from that week.  Note the ending.

 

October 8, 2000

 

Dear Friends,

   My life flows on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentation

I hear the real though far off hymn

That hails a new creation:

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear the music ringing

It finds an echo in my soul,

How can I keep from singing?

           

            When tyrants tremble sick with fear

            And hear their death knells ringing

            When friends rejoice both far and near

            How can I keep from singing?

            In prison dark and dungeon vile

            Our thoughts to them are winging

            When friends by shame are undefiled,

            How can I keep from singing?

Quaker Hymn

 

 

About a week and a half ago I flew right over Belgrade on my way to one of my touchdowns around the periphery of Serbia. I knew there were demonstrations going on in the streets 35,000 feet below me.

On my travels I was seeing new places that I never thought I would visit (Timosara, Romania is Fargo if it had been built by the communists.)  I was visiting with local stations to sign them up to carry independent Serbian news from B2-92 as part of the “Network of Networks” project.

I knew that he (Slobodan Milosevic) was finished, the voters had said so, and I had a strong feeling that, now, finally, it had turned.  It was a matter of time, and how much pain?  As I looked down on the city I still could not visit I sang that song in my heart.  “The real though far off hymn that hails a new creation.”  But how far off?

Not so far.  Thursday I had gotten several calls from my Serbian staff in Belgrade. Things were coming to a climax.   The government was jamming some of the remaining independent radio stations, the police had broken into the building where ANEM (The Association of Independent Media) was conducting training.  I was watching CNN.  Demonstrations massed in front of Parliament and then a yellow front loader drive right through Serbian state TV.  I was trying to get another peripheral station on the phone to ask them to carry B2-92 news, to get more information into Serbia when I got a call from Belgrade.  “We’re home.  B2-92 is broadcasting on 92.5.”  Once it started moving it moved quickly.

Suzi and I joined other Americans and Canadians who had been working on democracy projects in Serbia and ordered pizza while watching Radio TV Serbia go dark on the satellite.  Then it come back with the familiar logo that had for so long represented the regime but with statements from the leaders of the opposition.  On another satellite channel we were watching the streaming from B2-92 covering the action in the streets.  TV Montenegro’s satellite service had given up trying to keep up and just rebroadcast CNN with a Serbian language commentary.  The revolution was televised, the revolution was television, and, of course, radio.  That night I got the following email from B2-92.

Rich and Suzi,

None of us could have done it had we not all kept the faith all through the good and bad times. I will never forget the support of you and Suzi, when our backs were against the wall, and I know that goes for everyone!

Love to you both and let’s hope the night gives birth to all our dreams!

 

Within an hour ANEM had set up a TV transmitter on top of the liberated city hall and was broadcasting on channel 62 live.  I called my friend LJ on her mobile phone because I expected her to be out on the streets dancing with half a million other Serbs but she was at home,   “Boy do we have television.  B2-92, Studio B back on the air, RTS liberated.”  To a mediahead the revolution was more interesting on the screen than live and in person.

Someday I will tell you the story of the last two months, but for now, well, I can’t even describe how I felt Thursday.  It was one of the most joyful days of my life (After our wedding day and the birth of our kids).  There were calls back and forth to friends in Serbia and an email entitled “the last PGP” (our encryption program.)  The security phone monitors had left their posts and joined the crowds on the streets so we could talk without being cut off.  I have two cell phones and even with that I had to borrow Suzi’s to be able to handle all the calls from Belgrade.  I guess it was pretty funny watching me, who hates mobiles, talking on three at once, balancing two between a chin and shoulder and holding a third.

Suzi and I have had one day off I’ve had since July 22. Both of us were averaging 11 hours a day 7 days a week.  I’ve never worked harder, but perhaps have never felt as effective. I’m tired and happy but I keep reminding myself to also keep singing “won’t get fooled again.”

Take Care,

Rich McClear

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