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Sarajevo - U2 - 19 Years Ago - It Was Real

09/29/2016 04:00 pm ET

Sarajevo, September 23rd, 1997 - United States of America, September 23rd, 2016

Nineteen years ago I was on my way to the first concert of my life. I was seventeen. It was exhilarating, exciting. The day was full of promise that the history was about to be made. I was no ordinary teenage girl. Concertgoers that day were not some ordinary concertgoers. We were men, women, teenagers who were cut off from the world to which we thought we belonged to for three years. We were cut off, forgotten, left to starve and die. To this day, I cannot believe that in only three years we moved from the sniper fire, shelling, death and hunger to a U2 concert, their POPMart tour. For me this was the first time that the world has come back to us. They arrived, the four of them, Bono, the Edge, Adam and Larry, bringing all that we yearned for, freedom, carelessness, release, life.

Organizers told us to wear sneakers to preserve the grass on the Kosevo stadium. For what, I thought, for all those international games we were not playing? I lobbied for money to buy a bus ticket and to pay my cousin back for the concert tickets. Even my parents, who were pretty conservative, did not object to me going to a different town to watch this foreign band. They understood how important this event was for me, for the whole country. I cannot recall the feelings I had that day. Excitement, triumph, fear, love? This was the first time that people from all the parts of Bosnia would congregate together on a large scale after they were told for three years that they should hate each other. Young people came. They came, seventy thousand of them, Bosnians, Croatians and Serbians. U2 charged us a trivial price for the tickets, $10 perhaps, I don't remember how the dollar fared against the Bosnian currency then, but it was close to $10. These men wanted to come, to bring us closer to the world that watched if we would eviscerate each other for three years. We didn't. We did try, we tried to hate and pray to God to crush the enemy, but we were not each others enemies. This was all a confabulation of our minds.

So, U2 came. Bono was on the stage, doing the boxer shuffle. I sang and I danced and kissed a boy. It was the best night of my life. I felt as if I possessed this special connection with the band. We all probably felt it. We thought that Bono, the Edge, Adam and Larry took the collective pain that we were in and infused the stage with it, infused their music with it and then somehow took it away from us, allowing us to just feel and forget that we were only alive by some cosmic chance. We were alive by surviving something that was beyond our control, random.

I spent the night at my aunt's house. Many of my friends spent the night on the streets of Sarajevo where they encountered members of U2 just walking the streets in the early morning hours after the concert, perhaps trying to understand how a city so beautiful and so responsive to their music could be so damaged.

It was nineteen years ago. I am a woman now, with two children, living peacefully in America, yet, this concert feels more real to me sometimes than the reality of now.

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