September 11, 2007

Berlin, September 11, 2001

Reprised from a prior posting.

It was the trip of a lifetime, planned, on board the SS Marco Polo with hundreds of fellow veterans, all courtesy of USAA travel. We had landed in Copenhagen, traveled to Tallinn, Estonia; to St. Petersburg, Russia; to Finland and Stockholm and then to Warnemunde, Germany where we were to take the train to Berlin. I was excited, taking my wife to Germany, land of my birth, home of many fond memories of my youth.

We disembarked at Warnemunde at 7:00 AM, for a three hour train ride to Berlin Arriving at 10:20 AM; 3:20 AM New York time a 7 hour difference. A cab ride shared with friends to the Brandenburg Gate. Walking through the Brandenburg gate, visiting Checkpoint Charlie and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Making a purchase of a piece of the Berlin Wall for my brother and other Berlin souvenirs for other family. Walking down Unter den Linden with a rain squall having made the street's damp and muggy. Waiting in line at the Bundestag but giving up when the rain started.

Grabbing a late supper we desperately hunted a cab to get back to the train station on time for the return trip and the cabbie, thinking we were just stupid tourists took the long way around. He was a little surprised when I let him know that I wasn't going to pay for the extra miles. Getting to the train station with a few minutes to spare, I looked up at the at the TV overhead and noticed a building on fire, but the train was boarding and I didn't have time to listen. It was probably just as well, my German was pretty poor anyway.

Settling down in the car with two others from the ship that we had befriended the train started on time. One of the passengers came in and said, America had been attacked. "What?" Confusion! By who, what happened? Questions flashing through my brain, concern on my wife's Face, rumor flashing from train car to train car!

Finally, one of the German guides came in and told us that the Twin Towers in New York had indeed been struck by planes and had since collapsed. Fear was on every face in the train.

It took longer than the trip down to get back to Warnemunde, a time that while only close to four hours, seemed like twenty four. All the time cut off from additional information. Worry traveled with us the whole way.

Arriving in Warnemunde we were warned that re-boarding the ship would take a while, and that we needed to be sure that we had no contraband and plenty of identification as everything would be closely checked. Our Guide said that the Deutsche Bundeswehr (German Army) was now in control of the port at Warnemunde and would be in charge of our safety. Walking the three blocks from the train station to the dock in the dark with only the occasional street lamp to guide us, and fear and worry accompanying us, we arrived safely to long lines.

Soldiers with grim faces and submachine guns at the ready stood guard along the dock and massed at the gangplank of our ship and the other cruise liner docked there. Two military vehicles were at the head of the dock with stern looking soldiers manning what appeared to be close to .50 caliber machineguns on the top of the armored personnel carrier type vehicles.

We slowly made our way to the ship, presented our passports and had our bags searched. On board at last, we made our way rapidly to our stateroom and turned on CNN. The scenes of the Twin Towers being struck, on fire, collapsing was played again, and again, and again. America! Struck by an enemy that cared not who he killed. Innocent civilians going about their jobs wiped out in a matter of minutes. Finally dropping off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning of the 12th, I slept fitfully, with images of fire and disaster haunting my dreams.

The rest of the trip was somewhat of a blur. I know we cruised the Kiel Canal to Amsterdam and then to Dover for the bus ride to London. In London, finally, at a hotel where we could decompress, the emotions hit, the tears flowed and anger coursed.

The next day, we traveled to the U.S. Embassy and went to the memorial garden set up by the peoples of England at the base of the statue of General Eisenhower. Some of the flowers and items left tore at my heartstrings, especially a little fire truck left by some small English child. Some of the photos of the memorial are below. The memories still haunt me from time to time. For the citizens of New York, it can only be worse.

Half Mast.jpg
The Flag at the Embassy, Half Mast

candles and flowers.jpg
Candles left by the Wonderful People of England

Cards of Condolence, expressions of Love

flag in flowers.jpg
The Flag in Flowers

The firetruck of a child reading in childish script "to all the firemen who died," the one photo that then, as now breaks my heart.

Thank you London, Thank you People of England, you took some of the pain away and left memories. Some bitter, some sweet, all worth having!

The Ultimate 9/11 Memorial Movie

Linked at STACLU and Texas Fred's

Moving Photos at Mudville Gazette

An updated post at The Bald Headed Geek

Cathouse Chat has T.H.E. videos.

Posted by GM Roper at September 11, 2007 11:59 PM | TrackBack

I re-posted all my 9-11 posts from the past two yrs...many people chose to forget. I guess it all depends upon where you think the country is heading.

Either way we should never forget this awful day, because forgetting will cost us our soul.

Posted by Raven at September 11, 2007 06:16 AM

This is America's "Battle of Britain". We seem to be sliding into comlacency. Those who are not just not paying attention are often strident...but extremely misinformed. The war will be won or lost on the Home Front. Our military is doing wonders. While some errors and mis-steps have been made (they are in ALL military campaigns), they have learned fast and are doing better and better. Meanwhile, flat liars ("We Support the Troops"...mostly Dems in the House and Senate) and those truly expert personages in Hollywood are screeching for us to "come home" and ....what? Beg forgiveness of those cut off heads? Those who blow up men, women and children?

This IS a critical time in the history of the world. Will Americans rise to the challenge?

Posted by Tad at September 11, 2007 07:01 AM

Thank you GM... We are all filled with emotions and memories today, and with a strong sense of HONOR, at least some of us are...

Posted by TexasFred at September 11, 2007 12:58 PM

Fabulous post, George. Thank you...........


Posted by Bald-Headed Geek at September 11, 2007 01:16 PM

Nice rememberance, GM. I was also in London at the time and the Brits uniformly were uniformly kind.

Posted by Mavis Beacon at September 11, 2007 11:01 PM

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