Showing posts with label 9/11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 9/11. Show all posts

Saturday, April 20, 2013

...and That's The Way It Is -- Goodnight and Have a Pleasant Tomorrow

One of the most difficult times to be overseas is when something catastrophic happens in the United States. In 2001, I was in Wiesbaden, Germany when terrorists flew passenger airplanes into the World Trade Center. This time I was in Kuwait when terrorists set off bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  In both instances, I have been thousands of miles away and therefore not directly involved; although for a period of time after 9/11 we were unsure if we might be attacked at the base in Germany. In both instances, I have not been in a position to offer help or assistance and could do little more than watch.
The Victims.  RIP

When 9/11 happened I had just relocated to Germany and did not even have satellite TV yet. As a result I had rabbit ears which allowed me to pick up the local AFN channel which was doing a live feed from CNN. This time, I not only had satellite TV, but between 2001 and now something called social media started to exist so I also had Twitter, Facebook and Reddit.  Postings on social media sites for the most part are written by real people and not professional journalists.  I have drawn two conclusions because of that:  1. On the whole social media was more accurate and up-to-date than any news channel on TV, and 2. There was less bias on social media, except for those postings by the political hacks who are also on TV.  What really rocks about social media over TV is that I can turn off those people who are doing nothing more than political commentary while keeping the objective observations of the rest of the population. It is really hard to turn off part of a channel on TV. 

Middle Eastern looking?  Okay, a little
As the week progressed, it became more and more difficult to watch the coverage as politicians tried to bend the events to suit their agendas. I have yet to find any connection between any gun legislation and the ownership or planting of bombs in public places. Additionally, it was quite interesting to watch many of the pundits on MSNBC insisting that this must be a white racist conservative while CNN and several others were reporting the person as being  Middle Eastern looking. I will tell you having lived and traveled extensively in the Middle East that there is no such thing as Middle Eastern looking.  I have seen Arabs, Persians, North Africans, and Israelis who look just like the folks that I saw walking down the street in rural Georgia, suburban Michigan, and anywhere else in the United States.  
When the end of the week came and the chase was on I went back to social media and again received updates by the moment. It was not the same as being in the United States, but at least I knew what was going on --well, sort of knew what was going on. The press was still pushing out rumors where social media was fairly accurate and unbiased. I saw pictures and footage of the suspect before it made CNN, Fox, or the BBC.   Again, there were those trying to bend tragedy to political advantage -- unlike having a different opinion on gun control, which is something that is something truly worthy of being ashamed.
Now, one suspect is dead and the other is in custody and the city of Boston is once again what it was before all of this. I was proud to hear the people cheered the cops and police as they went through the streets returning back to their station houses. I would've been right there on the streets with them.

It has been revealed that the suspects were not Americans, conservatives, Arabs, or any other target group but two brothers from Chechnya. Chechnya has been involved in a civil war for many years, but unless you pay attention to European news or the history of Russia you would never have known anything about it. Now, for at least a day or two all America will get an education on what is going on there.

Was that the point? There are better ways to gain attention than killing people. There are better ways to express yourself than blowing up property. There are better ways to convince people that your opinion is right or wrong than by blasting shrapnel through their bodies. Perhaps they should have tried Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

Maybe they should have written a weekly blog.

Post Script:  Ruslan Tsarni, the Uncle of the two brothers had the perfect response to his nephews actions "They put shame on their family...they put shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity".

Pix of the Week

Lifted without shame from @Q80HillBilly

I am not sure how this is supposed to work.  It can't be that easy, can it?


Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Experiencing 9/11 Outside The United States

A lot of folks have asked me to share what it is like being outside the US during recent events.  After giving it some thought, I have pieced together the following, and I am sending it on to friends and family.  I hope this lets you know that the world is still a caring place, for the most part, and that we are all safe and secure.

On 11 September, I was in class when the announcement was made about the first crash. None of us could believe it.  I grabbed my cell phone and dashed from the classroom to our security office.  I arrived in time to watch the second plane hit - I was dumbfounded.  My brain just could not digest that this was real and not some special effect. 
I left the security office to head upstairs to the situation room to notify them that I was locking down the network to prevent any problems.  After about 15 minutes there I walked into the Colonel's office to brief him.  As I walked into the room, I heard the announcement about the Pentagon.  This was so unreal.  I was in a daze.

I had no fear for my youngest son, he was on the base and secure.  My older son was at work,  just around the corner from his brother.  The only real fear I felt was for you folks in the US and those folks in uniform I had worked with for 20 years. I also had a very odd feeling because this was the first time in 20 years I was in no way connected to what would be the "military reaction."

Like most of you, we all spent that night and the next few glued to the TV set to see what new information was forthcoming.  Armed Forces Network (AFN) was giving us a live CNN feed.  We, like you, were looking for something --  anything that would lend a bit of hope to the darkness.   I found some of that hope in the German people of our city.

The night of the 11th I was taking the trash out when two of our neighbors, who I had not even met yet (we had been in the house 11 days), came by to express their condolences and to tell me that their prayers were with America.   While walking downtown,  a man of apparent Middle eastern descent come up to apologize for the acts of the "insane and evil" among his people.  Most of all he wanted me to understand that it did not represent his people and that I should not hold it against them.

The base went into lock down mode.  As some of you know, I do not work on the base itself but in the American Arms Officer Tower downtown.  Within a few days, we all got used to the ID checks, car searches and other obstacles in place to keep us safe.   About two days after the crash I started to notice the flowers appearing at the main gate,  which had been totally locked down.  I started making it a point to go by there, and as days passed flowers, candles, cards of encouragement, flags (American and German) all appeared.  I took time to read several, and most said the same thing "We are with you,  we are one."  I had found some hope, a bright spot that made it all a little easier.
Several huge silent candle lit marches went through the city, ending in services at the various cathedrals in town.

We went on a Volksmarch (sort of an organized stroll through the forest) the next weekend, and IVV was collecting money for American Red Cross and signatures for a card to be sent to New York.  I think this is the first time I can ever remember hearing about or seeing a foreign country giving to America instead of the other way around.

In recent weeks there have been two other events here in Wiesbaden that connect to the WTC tragedy.   I am telling you about them so that if you hear about them later, you do not feel any worry.  The person thought to be the "money man" for al Qaeda was arrested here.  Keep in mind the Frankfurt (20 miles up the road) is the financial capital of Europe, so it is not out of line for this guy to be living here.  It is about the same as finding a stockbroker living in Newark.    One item of comfort:  since this was a money laundering operation, the business end was kept far away from it to keep it looking legitimate.

The other incident was an Anthrax scare at a local Shell gas station. The substance was tested and found to be plain old cocaine.  How's that for relativity - feeling relieved because it was cocaine?  

The worst part of being here during something like this is not feeling insecure or fearful.  The worst part is feeling disconnected from your people - those that share the experience and feel the pain.   It feels that way here to a small degree.  For the most part, the sincerity of the words "We are with you,  we are one" from the German people provides that comfort to us.  From what I hear similar experiences are being had by Americans in England and Italy as well -- too bad it takes a disaster to bring us all a little closer together.

That's all the news from the Deutschland for the moment.  Everyone is fine and well and doing great.

Wiesbaden, Germany