Posted by: Nazausgraben | September 11, 2011


September 2001/2011

The news reports here in Austria are filled with information regarding the 10th anniversary of the attack in New York; the start of a new chapter in our world’s history. There are the inevitable interviews with the oh-so-gescheit talking heads, expounding their views on an event that happened when they were nigh entering  puberty.

There is an almost visceral reflective sorrow amongst the collective ‘us’ as all recall where we were and what we were doing when the news came. The pull is very strong to tell someone, “I was here when the towers fell”. And so we do, whether in the US, the UK, Austria or throughout the European continent. For 10 years is a milestone in our remembrance.

As a Naval Officer on active duty, I was stationed at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California where I was a member of the military faculty.

Early on that fateful morning, as I prepared to depart for my office on the quiet, warm placid Monterey Bay, I recall watching the attacks unfold, far from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The word spread quickly that we were now on the highest level of national alert. All of us in uniform responded immediately.

Military facilities were secured. Large caliber heavy weapons appeared, leveled at anyone entering these secured areas.  Emergency plans were opened and read, new duties and responsibilities disseminated, postgraduate education forgotten as we were placed on war footing.  We watched…and waited for orders on how to proceed.

Susi was at home here in Austria. When her call finally got through to me, she told me that all in the Tirol thought that the radio reports regarding the attacks were dramatizations…something akin to the ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast made during the first half of the last century. It was shortly thereafter when the shocking reality set in that Austria along with the rest of the nation states of Europe joined the US in that all-too-brief moment of complete unity. Twas a fleeting moment indeed.

Later that same day, I gathered a group of military officers and their families from around the globe who were attending classes at the Naval Postgraduate School and discussed the terrible events that had transpired.  All voiced in no uncertain terms full support for the US and what responses that surely were to follow. Our uniforms, our insignia and ribbons..all the glistening martial accoutrement with which we were bedecked seemed to suddenly take on greater historical importance…more than ever, they now defined us amongst men, for some of us were now going to see our planned lives irrevocably altered. It was and remains our calling, our purpose.

Just before we went our separate ways as the sun was setting, I suddenly began to sing ‘God Bless America’. I never really liked this song….this bit of the late 1930s that to me had sounded more Hollywood than heartland. But at that moment, the words had transcended their origins. They had become more of a proclamation…a hymn of sorts… in allegiance with the many innocents whose lives had been lost on that clear Manhattan, Alexandria and Shanksville morn.

I was a lone voice, for none of the others there knew the song. Yet, they understood the meaning and recognized the intent. Tears came. It was incredibly difficult to get the words out; emotions and fatigue were overwhelming as we approached the end of that very long terrible day.

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