As he spoke by phone Tuesday afternoon, Trim Demiri was clearly pumped up by his surroundings in the nation’s capital.
“I came into the city by the Metro and walked around,” Demiri said. in Washington, D.C. “I took photos … and there’s stuff I want to do,” including buying souvenirs as small reminders of a very special evening in his young life.
“Today is going to be the best day of all,” Demiri said Tuesday as he looked forward to watching President Barack Obama deliver his fifth State of the Union address from the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives in the U.S. Capitol.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Demiri said. “Just being there listening to the president and actually seeing it is a moment in history.”
The 22-year-old North Ridgeville resident majoring in international studies at Lorain County Community College is a long way, physically and emotionally, from the village in Kosovo where he lived as a young boy as the brutal war raged around him and his family.
Demiri was invited to be part of the State of the Union address by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, who became familiar with his story after the 2010 North Ridgeville High School graduate volunteered to make phone calls and do other canvassing for Kaptur’s re-election campaign last fall.
Kaptur first invited Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to Washington, but he was unable to attend, according to Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought.
Jackson’s loss became Demiri’s gain.
“Congresswoman Kaptur wanted to reach out to people in the newer portion of the district,” Fought said.
Kaptur was re-elected to her congressional seat in November in the newly configured 9th District, which contains parts of Lorain County, including North Ridgeville.
Kaptur, who is of Polish heritage, has long had sympathy for the peoples and issues of Eastern Europe, Fought said.
“When I got the phone call (from Kaptur’s staff ), I was in shock,” Demiri said. “This is an opportunity I cannot miss. It comes once in a lifetime.”
“Trim’s story really struck a chord with her,” Fought said of Kaptur. “He’s been through more than most people go through in a lifetime.”
Demiri fled Kosovo in 1999 with his parents and a younger brother. He was 8 at the time.
“We didn’t have much there,” Demiri said, recalling the family’s bleak life in the war-torn country. “It was about coming to America and owning a house and just being free and able to do what you would like. It was about living the American Dream.”
The family, which included his mother, Zejnete, and brother Zgjim, now 20, eventually fled to a small village to live with cousins for a time before leaving their homeland for the U.S.
“I remember playing soldiers outside, and we’d look over and see tanks rolling down over the hills,” Demiri said.
The tanks belonged to invading Serbian forces.
A teacher in Kosovo, Demiri’s father now works for the Aladdin Baking Co. in downtown Cleveland.
“My father was really into history,” Demiri said. “I picked that up from him.”
Demiri is already pondering a career in public service, quite possibly with the State Department, or Department of Defense.
“So many people have helped me to get where I am, and now I want to help others however I can,” Demiri said.