Remember, Remember the 9th of September! – Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam

September 10th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

I wish you were there! How I wish you were there!

It was the 9th of September. A day I will always remember. (more…)

I wish you were there! How I wish you were there!

It was the 9th of September. A day I will always remember.

A glorious day when Dulles Airport became Bole Airport, for 3 hours. Dulles was awash in the green, yellow and red. It was a day of joyous celebration. It was a day of pride. It was a day of triumph. It was a day unlike any other in the history of Dulles Airport. In the history of Ethiopians in America. No dignitary of any country, no rock superstar, no one but no one, had ever received such a massive reception in the history of that airport, so said the airport policeman on security detail. They were baffled. They had never seen so many people at the terminal waiting to receive passengers. Never! dullesimage5.jpg

A burly police officer asked me, “Who are the people waiting for? Some kind of African kings?”

I chuckled. “No, they are no kings,” I said. “They are the truly elected leaders of Ethiopia.”

“What is it? All of you guys haven’t seen’em for a while or something?” he followed up.

“No, we haven’t. They have been in jail for the last two years,” I explained.

“Didn’t you just tell me they were some kinda elected leaders. Why were they in jail,” he asked logically.

“Because democracy is a crime in Ethiopia,” I replied. “If you win elections fair and square, you go to jail,” I warned him.

“Man, that’s really messed up!” he said as he turned around to attend to his security duties.

He really has a point. It really is messed up!

I wish they were there too. You know who “they” are. They were probably there. Skulking behind doorways and support beams. Stealing a glance here and there. I wish they could come out in the crowd and feel how it feels to be loved by the people. How it feels to be respected. How it feels to be honored. I wish they were there to see and feel the power of popular love, the respect and admiration of ordinary citizens — raw, uncensored and irrepressible.

There was electricity in the air. Ethiopians — younger ones, older ones, of all backgrounds, together in one place — waiting anxiously for their heroes and their heroine. Men and women screaming in joy. Sitting. Standing. Walking. Talking, Singing. Taking pictures.

I saw a young man who stood alone in the corner sobbing by himself as he clutched the Ethiopian flag close to his heart. I felt I should try and comfort him. “Steady, man. Steady. (Ay zoh, berta.) Get a hold of yourself,” I said, to distract him. “But I am trying,” he answered. “I am really trying. I just can’t stop my tears.” I knew exactly how he felt. I left him alone. dressed_up_with_ethiopian_flag.jpg

We waited anxiously and the minutes lapsed with hopeful anticipation. And people kept on pouring into the terminal. I was so proud. The crowd was disciplined, very well behaved. People followed the instructions of the police officers who were a bit nervous at the beginning facing such a huge crowed. I chatted with the cops, and they were very accommodating. Mostly, they observed from a distance with studied curiosity. colorful_reception.jpg

I spotted an elderly lady in the crowd. I did not know her, but decided to congratulate her anyhow. “Emama, enkwan des a lot (Mother, congratulations). “Well, my son. There is no end to the miracle to God’s work. They are here today,” she said. Indeed, they are here today by the grace of God, I thought to myself.

As passengers trickled out from the rear of the terminal, people in the crowd would crane their neck to see if THEY were coming out. (Wetu, wetu!) Some would break out in spontaneous applause, but THEY were not to be seen. The anticipation was building up, and people were besides themselves by the minute, by the second.

A reception line was formed at the passenger exit door. And we waited somewhat nervously. There were six children holding flowers for our honored guests. I started a little conversation with them. “So, how do you feel,” I asked. “I am happy. I am excited,” replied a little girl. “But why are you happy and exited,” I followed up. “Because we love them,” she said. That was good enough for me. No further questions.

As I stood in the reception line and looked into the countless hopeful eyes in the crowd, I thought about the day. “What a glorious day the Lord has made!”, I thought to myself. I was overjoyed. A lot of things were racing through my mind. I tried to read the mood of the huge crowd, in a sort of detached way. But I couldn’t. The atmosphere was too electrifying. People hugging, kissing, embracing, singing and congratulating each other, unstoppably.

I felt like I was at huge family reunion. And there were the relatives I knew, and a whole boatload of distant cousins, and relatives and neighbors and their uncles and grandmothers I did not know. But they had all showed up for the reunion. It did not matter.

Then I thought of all the people in the crowd. I asked myself how many of them knew these leaders. I have never met them any one of them before, at least in person. But I did know them. Really. I knew them through the story of their suffering. I spoke to them while they sat in the Zenawi’s dingy Kality prison. Oh, yes, I knew them as I followed their story in Kangaroo court. I knew them when they faced bogus criminal charges brought against them by a bogus prosecutor in front of bogus judges. No doubt about it, I knew them well. We just hadn’t met in person.

And in minutes we were about to meet. I thought to myself how I would feel when I first see the faces of TRUTH. And courage. And valor. And defiance. And fortitude. I thought about how it would feel to stand by the side of real heroes and a heroine. Just how does it feel?

Then I had a flashback to May, 2005. I wondered, if democracy had not been stillborn in May, 2005, would I have been at standing at Dulles Airport to receive them? Would any of us? If the people’s voice had not been stolen then, where would Ethiopia be today?” Such fleeting thoughts criss-crossed my mind.

But I was overtaken by a mood of sullenness for just a moment. I thought about the 193 innocent men, women and children that were mowed down like grass by Zenawi’s security men in 2005. The photos of their mangled faces, their bullet-riddled bodies, the sun baked blood on the dirt, all of it, flashed hauntingly before my eyes. I will admit it, my eyes welled up in tears.

I wondered what may happened to the thousands that were shot, but lived through the grace of God. The thousands more that were imprisoned, and continue to be imprisoned. And the millions of dollars that were being spent for a bogus Millennium at a time when people could not afford to buy a kilogram of beef or berbere or sugar. I even thought about Marie Antoinette who, upon being told the peasants did not have bread to eat, muttered, “Then let them eat cake.” I suppose, those who have organized the Millennium party would be saying, “If they can’t eat chicken or beef or mutton or berbere, let them eat grass or something.” We’ve got a party to attend!

A sudden burst of applause and ululation jolted me out of my “blues”, and as I looked up I could see the smiling face of Birtukan standing tall and elegant in a grey striped suit flashing a broad smile. For a moment, just for a moment, I wondered if Birtukan had just stepped off a plane or the centerfold in Vogue Magazine. There she stood beaming a smile at the crowd. The crowd went wild. Engineer Gizachew, Dr. Hailu and Ato Brook followed as the flower girls handed them their bouquets. And suddenly Dr.Berhanu joined in from the crowd as people chanted his name. It was a free for all after that. Everybody wanted to kiss them, hug them, embrace them. Touch them. You had to be there to feel it! bertukan_berhanu.jpg

They took it all in stride. They were happy, but I think they had the surprise of their lives. I doubt they could have imagined such a huge crowd, such an outpouring of love, respect and honor waiting for them. In America. At Dulles Airport.

But the crowd would not leave them alone. They followed them outside the terminal. They sang for them. They assembled in the parking lot. They sang some more. They followed them on the highways, miles and miles of cars lined up in two lanes. Young people flashing the “V” sign as they sped down the highway, calling out their names and thanking them. “We love you Birtukan. Thanks Bre. Thanks, Dr. Hailu, Eng. Gizachew, Ato Brook. They followed them to the Washington Mall. And to the Mayflower Hotel. They just couldn’t get enough of them. I am sure by the end of the day “their cups must have runneth over.”

As we headed down the highway to the hotel, we started chatting. I felt like I had known them for a long time. They were people of humility. So soft spoken. So thoughtful. And what a sense of humor they have!

They were amazing. They showed no bitterness towards those who had caused them so much misery for the past two years. Not a harsh word against their tormentors. As we continued to talk, I began to sense what kind of people they were: ordinary people with extraordinary courage. Simple people with a big message. Common people with uncommon valor. Unpretentious people with rock-solid principles.

I joked with them. I asked them if they were surprised by the enormous turnout of Ethiopians at the airport. They said they had no idea that so many people would come out to receive them this early on a Sunday morning. Perhaps they felt they had caused people inconvenience by arriving so early. But I was quick to reply, “Well, if you could sleep on the dirt floor of Kality prison for two years, wake up and come to America to see us, we’d be damned if we could not get out of our comfortable beds on a glorious Sunday morning and say, “Welcome friends and thank you for everything!” We laughed, but that was the truth.

But thank them we must, Again and again. As they travel this great land to visit with us. We must thank them for suffering the indignities in Kality prison with grace. For sitting in Kangaroo court month after month and listening to perjurers and liars. For never getting down into the sewers to argue their cause with those who make a living there. For maintaining their honor and dignity against those who have neither. For their sacrifices — the love of their families, their professions, their friends– in the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights. For saying “NO!” to tyranny, and “YES” to democracy. For not selling out for thirty pieces of silver. For not copping out. For maintaining their sense of humor when the jerks jerk them around. For showing grace under fire. For sacrificing their freedom, and putting everything on the line, so that their countrymen and women can be free. And for maintaining a cheerful attitude about the whole thing.

So Birtukan, Berhanu, Gizachew, Hailu, Brook, Welcome to America. The land of the free and home of the brave. Breath the fresh air of liberty. Renew your spirit while you are with US, for America nurtures all who yearn to breath free. Feel at home here in America, for you can not feel home, at home. al_and_leaders.jpg

What a glorious day! What a historic day!

Remember, Remember the 9th of September!

  1. Rasselas
    | #1

    I wish I was there!! Shame on me….Thanks Anyways…Thanks again for everything.

  2. tsehay
    | #2

    a glimpse of what Ethiopia would one day be like…a strange sweet dream for now, but a definite reality in the foreseeable future…thus we dare to hope and dare to live expecting a big bang of renaissance for our country …

  3. kill Zenawi
    | #3

    Shame on me Twice for not being there. I wish there is a time machine so that I can fly back and re-live that moment.

    Shame On Me Again!!

    Damn Shame On Me!!!

    | #4

    What shall I say….Praise the Lord

  5. Tesaye Abate
    | #5

    A very BIG, BIG bravo to all those brave people and indeed to you too – the organizers.

    I’m totally thirlled!!!

    Cheers and God bless YOU all.

  6. tsehay
    | #6

    TPLF in addis EPRP in DC …against KINIJIT

    we need to tell these degenerate EPRPs to call off their dogs from the throat bite on our mother Ethipia’s neck…i know they are like mad dogs themselves, so the dog won’t call off its kind ”a house divided unto itself would surely fall” wouldn’t it?…debterochu know this very well from their bible reading if they haven’t already forgotten that too by now…so they all think and talk alike, like the tiny little heads within the big SATAN itself…they second eachother’s twisted ideas in this blog…they need to be told that their dogs are now panting down their last breath, scuttling with their tails between their legs, towards their demise…running to west coast!! ha ha

    yenat hod jigurgur…ewnet bihil…imagine the spirit of love KINIJIT and the rotten scum dogs of EPRPs…

    here is our beloved ABEL, our renaissance, if any thing happens to it, Qael EPRPs, the blood you would shed will be on you…and it will call out your culprit for generation to come in Ethiopia…

  7. yonas
    | #7

    Thanks God!

    I’m so Happied & proud to all Ethiopians, how welcomed our Leaders. I wished were there unfortunatliy am here in the middle east side anyways congratulation to all of us & happy new year.

  8. dinka
    | #8

    “Good things might come for those who wait
    but not for those who wait too late”
    I wish I was there but for sure I won’t miss them when they come to Canada though we won’t be as vibrant like Ethio/Americans.

  9. Dawit
    | #9

    I am one of the supporter of Kinigit. I am very happy after all this genocide allegation, our leaders are free! these leaders are elected leards of the people of Ethiopia. we all love them. They stand for true democracy in Ehiopia. When we call their name let’s make sure we call them with their title. Most of these people are Doctors, Engeeners, Judges, etc… they went to school to get these title. Who is going to call or respect them, we don’t start it today? We really love them, let’s show our love call them with their right title with respect and dignity. God bless Ethiopia and May God Bless all our elected leaders!

  10. Grant
    | #10

    Glad to see they will be in America (Home of the free) for the Millennium Celebrations. Keep the light of Ethiopia freedom alive in your heart. Time is on our side.

  11. No name
    | #11

    Cheers, It was so colorful, thanks to those who turned out, Even George Bush had no such reception. I am happy to see the tri color raised what a grace. There were times that, we hide our Ethiopianness leave alone to wear Ethiopian flag. That was my dream. Good leadership, there is no division within Kinijit and will work with all Ethiopians no frontier, even with the enemy no marginalization. I do not understand the recent campaign against EPRP by some.
    It was happiness for Ethiopians and deep sorrow for the enemy (Stomach ache)
    One Ethiopia
    Take care from serpents
    Happy Ethiopian New Year

  12. berew
    | #12

    Birtukan beliche lomi lomi agesagne
    Anchi endemindin nesh enen tena nesagne”

  13. Shumet Menywab
    | #13

    You X Prisoners, your love for the Ethiopian people is 100% so do our love for you. I would imagine if the Ethiopian people have the freedon we have here, the Diasporas’ celebration for you could have been nothing. The London and the Washington DC Ethiopian flag flyings are the reality of the real value you guys have for the Ethiopian people. Prof. Al Mariam, you and your work are shining! God bless you and God bless Ethiopia.

  14. mamushe
    | #14

    Thank you Prof. Al as always. You are a great person with a big big heart. You are a person who always optimistc about your country, I love you man. One more thing Ethiopians, if we don’t give power for these amazing leaders through peaceful struggle, our lovely motherland falls in great danger.

    Ride on brothers and sisters

  15. kill Zenawi
    | #15


    You got it right, Berew. Birtukan is the “Lithmus Test” to figure out who is woyanne and who is not. For woyanne she is a heart burn. For others, she is so sweet that she soothes your throat and soul.

    All Woyannes!! Don’t eat Birtukan unless you want to have a heart burn.

  16. | #16

    proff. Al mariam,

    Many thanks as usual. Most importantily, an indespensible life and work experience you have would play vital role for both CUD and Ethiopian people. Hope by the grace of Almighty God, we will prevail soon. Though TPLF minority group is not willing respect ethiopian voice, we will win soon.


  17. XDT2007
    | #17


    Here is a little something I put together for all my Ethiopian brothers and sisters.

    Watch it FULL SCREEN!

  18. ewnet
    | #18

    Prof. Al Mariam…please don’t forget that you are our hero…Ethiopia’s shining star. God be with you and keep you safe always.


  19. XDT2007
  20. | #20

    Happy new year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yagere lejoch badise amet adis (good news) were
    yelhal yehe new!!!!!!!

    enquan aderesen !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    KINIJIT meriwoch enquan adersachu!!!!!!!!!!

    This new year i wish we’ll see good new thing i hope God help you and ethiopian people.

    ewedachuhalhu yagere lijoch. All Ethiopians poeple ewedachuhalhu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Arefe
    | #21

    Good job!! now Ethiopians are wake up to show
    thire unity,love, and respect for those who
    deserve and to disappointed for those who are
    ignorent. Melkame “Esre Amet” to all of you!!!

  22. am
    | #22

    happy new year everyone!

    it is great to see support of our country!

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