"One of my main thoughts is how lucky we are as Americans to be in Slovakia today," said Gregory Orr of the US embassy in Bratislava. "Just walk by the embassy and look at the flowers and the candles. Someone's even erected a wooden cross."
Orr was speaking to a congregation of perhaps 70 people who came on September 14 to remember the victims of terrorist attacks September 11 in the United States. The hour-long service was held in Bratislava's Malý kostol, an evangelical Lutheran church that offers English-language worship.
"I'm most impressed by the ordinary Slovak citizens who came to the Foreign Ministry to sign a book expressing condolences," Orr continued in the service's opening address. "All the terrorists have succeeded in doing is to bring us closer together."
For the expatriate community in Slovakia, the Malý kostol service was the first official gathering of native English speakers in the wake of Tuesday's aircraft hijacks. Organised by Jake Slegers, head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia, the ceremony interwove hymns, the singing of the anthem God Bless America, and a cautionary sermon delivered by parson Paul Hanson.
"Such events can unify us for good or for evil," he said. "I pray that it is in our capacity to remain civilised, not to identify a few terrorists with whole peoples, religions or races."
The congregation appeared subdued, and most left quickly after the benediction, save a couple who embraced each other and wept in the aisle.
Outside the church, former US ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson made his way towards the television cameras of waiting Slovak journalists. "I only wish we weren't meeting under such circumstances," he said.
All afternoon, in front of the closed US embassy, knots of mourners stood and knelt in front of hundreds of candles and flower bouquets which had been propped against a 10-metre stretch of fence.
24. Sep 2001 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson