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Report from Skopje, Macedonia

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

By James T. Phillips
13 September 2001

The terrorists destroyed the building, surprising everyone with a well-planned sneak attack. The ground trembled as the structure came tumbling down, shaking the very foundation of a nation. The perpetrators were unknown, although government sources, the media and many stunned citizens have indicted Muslims. Muslims had the motive and the means, and had committed other acts of terror upon innocent civilians. Identifying followers of the Islamic faith as the terrorists responsible for the terrifying explosion was an easy choice for many of the victims.

The destroyed building was located in Macedonia, not the United States, and although the destruction was much greater in New York City, the victims from the mountainous village of Leshok understand what it is like to suffer at the hands of terrorists.

" Terrorism is terrorism," said Gorgi Dimitrijevski, a 30-year-old refugee from Leshok. Gorgi once lived in the Macedonian village where a large bomb, allegedly planted by rebellious ethnic Albanian Muslims, destroyed the historic Orthodox Christian Monastery in Leshok on July 21, 2001. "We never wanted this to happen to any people," said Gorgi, referring to the bombing of the World Trade Center. "But, it will make Americans understand what is happening in the rest of the world."

" I want to give blood for the American people because we know what it is like to suffer," said Gorgi Dimitrijevski as he donned a clean shirt before visiting the office of the American Red Cross. He wanted to donate blood to the victims of the World Trade Center bombing. Gorgi lived with his family in a small hotel room in Skopje, Macedonia after they were made homeless by terrorist acts committed by rebels of the National Liberation Army. "We have terrorist acts here, too. Albanians are the terrorists. When the war start, America turn their back on Macedonia and support the Albanian terrorists. For us, they are bandits; for America, the Albanian Muslims are fighting for human rights."

The American Red Cross office in Skopje did not have the facilities to take Gorgi's blood, but the deputy head of the Regional Delegation invited the young Macedonian into an office to talk about the offer. David Haskett, a 45-year-old American from Alexandria, Virginia sat patiently and listened while Gorgi spoke about terrorism facing both Macedonia and the United States.

" As someone who has been driven out of home, I would like to tell the American people that I feel the pain they are feeling," said Gorgi. "I would like to donate blood. There are other people who want to help because, although we are very angry with the American politics in the Balkans, we are not angry with the American people."

Gorgi and his family are Internally Displaced People. The Albanian Muslim rebels of the NLA have attacked their village, forcing most of the people to evacuate their homes. The NLA continues to occupy territory in Macedonia, and the government has been unable to respond militarily because the United States and NATO have pressured Macedonian politicians to negotiate a peaceful settlement. In Macedonia, the international community has rejected the use of force as a response to terrorism.

" I'm asking you as a humanitarian, how would you like to see people suffering," asked Gorgi. He had scanned the headlines of his local newspaper before going to the American Red Cross office, and knew that the United States would certainly retaliate against the terrorists responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center. Gorgi looked at the deputy head of America's premier blood collection agency, and said "If the United States can fight terrorism, why not Macedonia?"

It is a question on the minds of many Macedonians, and one that was deftly deflected by David Haskett. "Unfortunately, many of us do not donate blood until a tragedy or sad event happens and impacts us directly," said Haskett. "On the issue of politics, the American Red Cross is neutral, we're impartial. We do not deal with politics. We deal with the needs [of the people] as they surface."

The needs of the people of New York City, and all the other American victims of terrorism, will be catered to during the coming weeks, months and years. Blood will be donated by thousands of concerned people from around the world, including Gorgi the Macedonian. The government of the United States will avenge the horrific crimes committed against Americans on September 11, 2001; many more thousands of innocent people will undoubtedly die when the retaliation begins. Terrorism against Americans will never be tolerated, nor will any possible settlement of grievances be negotiated.

The rubble scattered in the streets of Manhattan dwarfs the small pile of stones that was once the Leshok Monastery in Macedonia; and, instead of only one person dying, as happened in Leshok, the deaths caused by the actions of terrorists in the United States will rise into the thousands. The people of America will demand justice, and will allow their leaders to obtain it using whatever means necessary.

The people of Macedonia, currently embroiled in political negotiations to end terrorist acts in their own country, will soon observe the response to terrorism by the United States and ask themselves: "Why not Macedonia?"

© The News Insider 2001James T. Phillips, who sent this report from Leshok, Macedonia, is a freelance journalist who has previously reported on the conflicts in Iraq, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Currently, Phillips edits the web publication

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