On September 11 2019 a Facebook user shared an editorial credited to Romanian newspaper columnist Cornel Nistorescu. Alongside a photograph showing black smoke billowing out of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the post was prefaced with commentary specific to 2019:
We rarely get a chance to see another country’s editorial about the USA. Remember what our country was like 18 years ago.
Read this excerpt from a Romanian Newspaper. The article was written by Mr. Cornel Nistorescu and published under the title ‘C’ntarea Americii, meaning ‘Ode ToAmerica ‘) in the Romanian newspaper Evenimentulzilei ‘The Daily Event’ or ‘News of the Day’ – 18 years ago.
It continued, including the editorial and a post-script urging readers to share the post “around the internet forever”:
~An Ode to America ~
Why are Americans so united? They would not resemble one another even if you painted them all one color! They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations and religious beliefs.
On 9/ll, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart. Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the Army, or the Secret Service that they are only a bunch of losers. Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed out onto the streets nearby to gape about.
Instead the Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand.
After the first moments of panic, they raised their flag over 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 government official or the president was passing. On every occasion, they started singing: ‘God Bless America !’
I watched the live broadcast and rerun after 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 gave his life fighting with the terrorists and prevented the plane from hitting a target that could have killed other hundreds or thousands of people.
How on earth were they able to respond united as one human being? Imperceptibly, 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 into collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit, which no money can buy. What on earth unites the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their history? Their economic Power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases with the risk of sounding commonplace, I thought things over, I reached but only one conclusion… Only freedom can work such miracles.
(This deserves to be passed around the Internet forever.) It took a person on the outside – looking in – to see what we take for granted !
GOD BLESS AMERICA !!!
In October 2001, an Associated Press reporter wrote an article about the piece and its unexpected effect on Americans thanks to nascent global sharing on the internet. In that archival piece, the bemused reaction to a Romanian newspaper article circulating among moved Americans was evident, indicating how unusual it was at the time to see articles or editorials from other countries circulating so widely. Reporters at the time made attempts to trace the editorial’s movement, noting republication in the Long Island-based Manhasset Press may have brought the piece to a wider American audience:
Banging out his column on an aging typewriter, Romanian journalist Cornel Nistorescu had no idea how broad a chord his “Ode to America” would strike among Americans on the other side of the world.
Like his other columns, “Ode to America” was meant for domestic consumption. No one knows when — or how — the article first reached the other side of the Atlantic. But Nistorescu figures it began when someone pulled it off the English-language version of his daily’s Web page and sent it to a friend.
Since then, thousands of Americans at home and expatriates around the world have e-mailed it to friends, saying it captured their nation’s spirit. It has been read out to U.S. soldiers and on radio talk shows and posted on U.S. Web sites.
Nistorescu said he had no idea his “Ode to America” would resonate so far away.
Bernard Klainberg, from Manhasset, N.Y., said he sent it to hundreds of people and printed it in his weekly Manhasset Press magazine. More than 50 people from his town of 7,700 died when the twin World Trade Center towers collapsed.
The origin of Nistorescu’s editorial was easy to find; a version of it dated September 24 2001 was available via the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. At some point after it came to wider notice, Nistorescu appended a note at the top of the page thanking the American people for their groundswell of interest:
For all of my readers
“An Ode to America,” (Cintarea Americii) struck an amazing chord among Americans, as well as other readers. It is the greatest satisfaction that any writer could hope for. I would like to thank all of you for the kind words you wrote about Romania, the newspaper and me. I would like to express my respect to all of you. If I had the time, I would send every one of you personal letters about how happy my colleagues, my staff and Romanians were that the words of a Romanian touched the hearts across the Ocean.
Nistorescu’s editorial as presented on Facebook largely matches the version archived in February 2002 and linked above. However, some phrasing was omitted and some paragraph breaks inserted. This is how it read in its original form, with portions omitted in the Facebook post underlined:
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 another, 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 colours 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, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Silvester Stalone, James Wood, 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 sacrifice for their fellow humans? Imperceptibly, 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!
The words attributed to Cornel Nistorescu in his Ode to America editorial were mostly accurate (although some was missing.) The editorial was published on September 24 2001, making its way into a small independent weekly newspaper on Long Island before spreading across the United States. Nistorescu’s words continued circulating the better part of two decades later, making its way from email to Facebook in a post that approached 150,000 shares in two days.