Knowing well that Commerce secretary Ron Brown’s military airliner went down in 1996 in former Yugoslavia with our dear and still keenly-missed friend Nathaniel Cushing Nash on board, I was not thinking of that sad event as we drove with our group from the Dubrovnik airport, newly arrived from Zagreb, to the coastal resort town of Cavtat, on our way to the old walled city of Dubrovnik.

As we rounded a curve on the gently-winding mountain highway, our tour director, Irina, clicked her microphone on to draw our attention to the right side of our coach. In that direction, she said, we could see a peak where, on April 3, 1996, Brown’s plane crashed in bad weather, killing him and 34 other passengers and crew, including Nathaniel, the New York Times Economics correspondent and Frankfurt bureau Chief–the only other passenger she identified by name.

(details of the event are found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_Croatia_USAF_CT-43_crash)

 “He was my roommate!” I blurted out. I had shared a rented house with Nathaniel and five other friends, when he was starting out at the Times and I was early in what became 24 years at CBS. Our tour director nearly wept when I told her more about it later. She hadn’t had to mention Nathaniel by name, but she did, and I’m grateful. I hadn’t placed the tragedy at Dubrovnik, and I’d hate to have been so near the spot but oblivious that so notable an event in our lives had taken place there.

I wondered later if we might be able to visit the spot itself, but found that it is reachable only by a hiking trail. Our situation and schedule, once in Dubrovnik, and indeed, our available energy, made a trek there impractical. Our comfort remains our confidence that our brother rests in the joy of God’s presence.  It’s good, too, to know that a monument–a ten-foot stainless cross with the crash victims’ names inscribed in stone–stands on the site.

But why would our tour director, as well as a Croatian guide we met in a museum, speak as caringly as they do of the event? Brown and his delegation were on a mission concerned with re-development of a war-damaged region where hostilities had only recently ceased. Croatians appreciated it then, and they appreciate it to this day.

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