I could not talk. I cried for days whenever I was left alone. I could not believe that I would live longer than the old bridge. It was our bridge. How would a Frenchman feel if somebody destroyed the Eiffel Tower? How would an Italian feel if somebody ruined the Colosseum?
We spoke of it as our friend, the oldest Mostarian whom we all respected and were proud of. Many people were killed during the war, but it was when the bridge was destroyed that Mostarians spontaneously declared a day of mourning.
I said at the time that it should be left as a reminder for future generations of what mad people in mad times are capable of doing. But now I hope its reconstruction will make this town less divided, and that it will bring the two sides together again. I’m proud, of course. But, you know, I still feel that something has been murdered here. The old bridge had its recognizable patina.
These builders do care, but this won’t be that old bridge. I will dive, and I’ll keep diving as long as my heart and body can endure that.
Emir Balic is a Muslim resident of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who at 16 first made the 30-m dive from the Mostar bridge a traditional rite of passage for local youths