Hungary United in Wake of Catastrophe
This disaster brings back memories of the sad damage done by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans five years ago. I remember the voices, the commentaries, and even the "schadenfreude” in Europe about this. Things like that "don’t happen in Europe,” I heard and read. Well they do. They happen everywhere. And no one is really prepared for things like this. I was one of the first in the Washington diplomatic community to travel to the region. I visited the Astrodome in Texas, where thousands of families found refuge. I spent time with local authorities, with the Coast Guard, with the Red Cross. I met world-class doctors from the MD Anderson Cancer Center who were performing simple medical procedures as volunteers.
Yes, there were moments when the world's most advanced country looked like a third world one. However, it never crossed my mind to draw any conclusions about the United States, its institutions, and its ability to function as a strong, tightly knit society. Even if it was not my job or responsibility, I fought against those who jumped on the opportunity to score political points in the U.S. or outside. I saw that as a duty, because we are friends and we are a community. "Friends in need are friends indeed” is the motto I had learned as a child from my friend Billy Hanson, the son of a pastor from California. My rock band -- I know, this sounds strange -- raised close to $200,000 to support New Orleans. I traveled to the devastated city as soon as I could and met with citizens, artists, and students to help lift their spirits.
What is my point? Well, in this terrible situation, I appeal to all our friends in the U.S. to help. Make sure to spread the news that Hungary is a healthy, functioning, responsible little country, in spite of what you saw in the news the last few days. It is the country which boasts of one of the most beautiful capitals (Budapest). It is a nation that gave the world Tony Curtis, Rubik, and Charles Simonyi.
In our sorrow, give us what we need most: emotional and moral support.