WASHINGTON – They met just before the speech began: the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and the daughter of a man killed by Saddam Hussein's (search) regime. They found some comfort in a spontaneous moment that electrified President Bush's State of the Union address (search).
The two women, both touched by death in Iraq, reached out for each other while lawmakers, military leaders, the president and the nation watched. Their locked embrace inspired the longest applause of the evening.
On Thursday, the parents of Marine Corps Sgt. Byron Norwood (search) said the Iraqi woman, Safia Taleb al-Suhail, had turned and introduced herself just before the speech.
"She thanked us for our son's sacrifice and made sure we knew the people in Iraq were grateful for the sacrifices that were made not just by our son, but by all of them," Janet Norwood said.
"I just told her how happy we were that the elections were successful and told her our son would have been pleased," said Norwood, appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America" with her husband, Bill.
Al-Suhail's father was killed 11 years ago by the Iraqi intelligence service. Now the leader of the Iraqi Women's Political Council, she watched the annual presidential address Wednesday night at the Capitol as a guest of first lady Laura Bush.
Behind her sat Janet Norwood, who sent her son into battle wishing she could "protect him like I had since he was born." Her son was proud to fight, loved his job and wanted to protect the nation, the mother wrote in a letter to the president.
"We have said farewell to some very good men and women who died for our freedom and whose memory this nation will honor forever," Bush said.
Pain etched lines in Norwood's forehead as she held a woman who won the freedom to vote in Iraq's election on Sunday. Norwood finally let go, took her husband's arm and rested her head on his shoulder.
The Iraqi woman had been applauded earlier when she stood and waved an purple-ink-stained finger and V-for-victory sign after being introduced by the president as a symbol for millions of Iraqis who voted in a free election for the first time last Sunday.
Lawmakers honored those elections with a show of purple, the color that marked the index fingers of Iraqis who voted.
A wave of purple fingers went up at each mention of the Iraqi vote, a gesture organized by Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La., to demonstrate solidarity with Iraqi voters. In a letter to fellow lawmakers, Jindal said he wanted to display support for "people throughout the world who seek freedom."
Some women traded traditional red and blue garb for suits that spanned a spectrum of purple, from lavender to violet. A few men sported purple ties.
"In any nation, casting your vote is an act of civic responsibility," Bush said of the election. "For millions of Iraqis, it was also an act of personal courage, and they have earned the respect of us all."
Democrats also praised the election, but pushed the Bush administration to improve security and transfer governing authority to the Iraqis.
"We have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.