To the sound of emergency sirens, Admir Delic threw flowers in the Neretva river and took a dive off of the reconstructed Old Bridge in Mostar at 10:16 on Friday morning, the date and time when 25 years ago the centuries-old Ottoman bridge was shot down.
Delic’s dive was, as opposed to custom, not followed by applause.
On this day, in 1993, the Croat Defense Council (HVO) shelled the Old Bridge until the structure collapsed into the river after it connected the two sides of Mostar since the middle ages. The bridge was a symbol of Mostar and Bosnia as a whole.
Divers of all age groups and schoolchildren gathered at the bridge to mark the anniversary, throwing flowers into the Neretva river below with the message that the evil that has gripped Mostar during the 1992-1995 war must never happen again.
According to the head of the local diver’s association, Sasa Orucevic, the anniversary marks the darkest day of Mostar’s history.
Mostar resident Amna Trcalo, a high school student, said that her parents spent the entire war in Mostar and that the destruction of the bridge is a special day in history for them.
“My grandfather was among the last people who crossed the Old Bridge just before it was destroyed, and this day means a lot to me,” she said. “I came here to help maintain the memory and help us remember the day when one of the most beautiful bridges in the world was destroyed.”
Local Sasa Djemanovic, who was wounded on November 9, 1993, also remembers that fateful day.
“When I came from the front line, they told me that the Old Bridge and the symbol of the city was destroyed, that it no longer exists,” he explained. “Firstly, I felt fury, and then sadness. It was very difficult.”
This is why Djemanovic is happy now, a quarter of a century later, that the anniversary of that moment is properly being marked. He is especially happy about the fact that a lot of children are attending the event and that they know about the significance of the Old Bridge for Bosnia, for the region and even for the world.
Emir Balic, who is considered the father of the Mostar diving tradition, said the Old Bridge was always considered the place where people would meet and spend time together. He said he hopes that it will once again be the place where all of Mostar’s citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, will be meeting.
The Old Bridge project was put together by Ottoman architect Mimar Hajrudin, and it was built between 1557 and 1566.
Reconstruction began in 2000, and the bridge was opened again in 2004 for the world to enjoy it. A year later, it was put on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list.