Budapest – July 20, 2003. Katey, 22, has recently moved to Budapest from Philadelphia to do her Masters in Human Rights, arriving one month before classes start to get acquainted with her new city. To pass the time, she takes evening walks – following the same route every night, always crossing at the same lights. That July evening, Katey doesn’t cross at the lights. She decides to cross the street a block before leading her to pass an outdoor cafe previously unknown to her. Wearing an FDNY shirt, a man sitting at the cafe with friends calls out to her asking if she speaks English. Not one to normally entertain strange men calling out to her, the need to socialize was too strong to resist. After 2 weeks, she is dying for company – specifically, English-speaking company. She learns that they are American soldiers on leave from their duty in Bosnia. Soldiers are safe, right? They offer to buy her a drink. After an initial hesitation, she sits down and across from her are the bluest eyes she’s ever seen. His name is Scott, and after being introduced to everyone at the table, she quickly decides which one is her favourite. Scott is quiet and a bit shy but they can’t seem to stop looking at each other. After drinks, one of the guys suggests going to a dance club. She hesitates again but they’re persuasive and charming. Plus, she’s pretty much broken all her usual rules at this point, why not one more? Next thing you know, they’re racing across the city in a cab. After a few hours of dancing, Katey and Scott share a kiss on the dance floor. Katey will later discover that Scott doesn’t dance. Ever. A gentleman, Scott walks Katey home, even staying back to walk her dog with her. She learns that he is leaving for Bosnia the next day and they say their goodbyes, but not before he asks her for her number. She agrees but doesn’t really believe he’ll call. Single girls know not to hold their breath for a phone call. But he calls. Then he visits for four days. And then they accumulate a pretty impressive collection of military calling cards, they talk everyday.
Now I’m going to break one of my rules and tell you what happens between these two. There will be lots of flying between Kansas, Philadelphia and Budapest. There will be plans foiled by a deployment to Iraq. Tears and an engagement. A secret wedding made not-so-secret by a small local newspaper in Kansas. A fancy wedding six weeks after a safe return. Two kids.
Late night café, la Fête des Lumières, Lyon, France
Late night conversation, la Fête des Lumières, Lyon, France
Late night music, la Fête des Lumières, Lyon, France
Katey in her FDNY shirt sitting beside Scott with his baseball cap, July 20, 2003, Budapest, Hungary (Photo provided by Katey)