Remembering 9/11

What I remember most about 9/11 was seeing my coworker cry.

We were in Germany at the US Army Transportation Management Center Europe. We were working on accounting bills for soldier travel throughout the theater. My coworker from downstairs came to our office and told us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. We didn’t believe him at first. But we followed him down the stairs to a little radio at someone’s desk and we gathered around the radio listening to the broadcast in shock….especially when the towers fell. I remember bringing my hands cupped to my face and I remember that my coworker began crying very hard.

We left work early and I caught a ride to Vilseck. Everywhere all over the military bases, the soldiers were in formation. It was an eerie sight to behold. The woman I caught a ride with also was upset. Her husband was Infantry and she was certain we would be going to war and the soldiers in Germany would be sent first. Turns out, I think it was the Big Red One soldiers from my home state of Kansas at Ft. Riley that got activated first.

The day of the attack, she dropped me off at my husband’s unit where the soldiers there were also gathered in formation. My husband was a 1st Lieutenant at the time. He began pulling double duty shifts for three or four weeks after that. He and his soldiers would work during the day and help guard the gates of Vilseck at night. I remember that we went to Threatcon Delta immediately. I also remember that the German government sent German soldiers to guard our families too and protect us.

The next day after 9/11, I left for work at 2 am in the morning and it took many, many hours to get through security. If I close my eyes now, I can picture the long line of cars in the darkness and the soldiers at the gates checking and carefully inspecting each and every vehicle. We lived off base in a small community called Auerbach. The military commanders at Vilseck sent 2 humvees filled with 4 or 5 armed soldiers with helmets and kevlar equipment and big guns to guard our small community at night. The soldiers protected our families every night for weeks and we would go out there to give them coffee and hot chocolate at times.

I remember sitting in my German duplex in the nights that followed the attack and watching the news endlessly. I remember the conversations with the other wives….all our husbands were working overtime…..and so we gathered around at patio tables to discuss things. We were all kinda worried about the potential of war.

The hardest part about 9/11 was seeing the jumpers out of the World Trade Center buildings. It brought tears to my eyes then. 20 years later, the images still bring tears to my eyes.

The attacks were horrible but GW Bush was right in his latest speech at Shanksville today. 9/11 unified the American people unlike anything I have seen since. It didn’t matter what you looked like, what you prayed, what your background……you were an American. We were Americans together and we felt the pain and suffering on 9/11 together. In some respects, I miss that collective unity……..how in the face of adversity, devastation, and malevolence, the best and brightest of human connection rises to the surface to counter it.

Remember 9/11 but most of all, remember that unity when the American people came together and the many nations of the world such as Germany also stood by our side to offer support, respect, and condolences. God bless America.

Castle Frankenstein

In 2002, I was working with the Department of Defense Finance & Accounting Service. About once a month, I would travel from Grafenwoehr, Germany to DFAS headquarters at Kaiserslautern to hand-deliver financial records for the US Army Transportation Management Center for Europe.

On one trip, I finished early and took the autobahn back home. I saw a sign around the Mannheim and Darmstadt area for Burg Frankenstein. This immediately piqued my interest. I had time to spare so I took a short excursion to the castle said to inspire Mary Shelley to write her gothic novel, The Modern Prometheus, in 1818. Today, we know this story through Halloween and classic hit movies as the story of a monster come to life by a mad scientist through the channeling of a lightning bolt.

But did you know that there really was a mad scientist?

Castle Frankenstein is all mostly in ruins now. In 2002, it was still quite large and stunning, however. I remember the stones being almost red. I remember walking through the ruins alone and up the stone steps to the towers. The place is supposed to be haunted.

The castle was built around 1250. It was sold in 1662 and used as a hospital for a while before falling into ruins. By the time Mary Shelley may have seen it in 1814 when she visited the Rhine region and a small town called Gernsheim, 10 miles away, the castle would have been in pretty bad shape. No one knows for sure if Mary Shelley went there but it is believed her stepmother, who was a translator for Brothers Grimm stories, had first heard the story of the mad scientist and passed the story on to Shelley.

Who is this mad scientist?

His name was Johann Konrad Dippel. He lived at the castle or near the castle sometime around 1673. He invented what he called an “elixer of life” that was said to cure many diseases. Johann was a professional alchemist, a medieval term for a chemist. According to rumor, Johann also did anatomy and some even speculated that he exhumed bodies for his research.

There are other fascinating and mysterious stories associated with the grounds around the castle. Supposedly, there is a fountain of youth nearby that turns old women into young girls on Walpurgis Nacht. There is also a story of a knight fighting a deadly dragon.

The most interesting story I found is located on Mt. Ibes. This is the location of a collection of magnetic stones. Compasses do not work on Mt. Ibes. It is a place supposedly where ancient rites, rituals, traditions take place according to the old ways of the Franks, the previous Germanic tribes that lived in this area. Frankenstein literally means “stone of the Franks” which could be related to this magnetic stone circle phenomenon. Mt. Ibes is supposed to be a sacred and respected place.

Sadly, I did not take pictures of the trip. This was 2002 prior to the arrival of the smartphone. and it was just a side excursion from the autobahn. It was one of those “spur of the moment” decisions that I will never regret. Some day it would be great to see the Castle Dracula too.

There is another place close nearby there along the border with France. The paranormal story from this place was called The Bleeding Nun and it is featured in another gothic classic written by Matthew Gregory Lewis called The Monk. The bleeding nun is an apparition that appears at Castle Lindenberg and warns you of giving in to lustful desires as it must have led to her demise. The Monk was published in 1796.

The only other story I really love from the Rhineland region is probably The Lorelei. She is a beautiful apparition that sits on the rocks just above a dangerous turn of the Rhine River. She was jilted by a faithless lover and committed suicide by casting herself into the waters of the Rhine at that spot and drowned. Now, she seeks revenge on sailors or other male travelers on the Rhine river. She sings a wondrous tune just like a siren. She is said to be exquisitely beautiful and also…..deadly. Men who see her, generally swim towards her….only to drown in the treacherous rapids below her. She became the inspiration for a portion of the small adventure book I wrote, Searching for Fire.

Here is a nice link to a BBC article with pictures of Castle Frankenstein. Thanks for reading this and have a gute nacht, freunde.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20161018-germanys-most-monstrous-castle

It’s Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight

There are two people credited with this quote. The first one is Mark Twain and the second one is Dwight Eisenhower. Technically, it is Mark Twain that said, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” On the other hand, Dwight Eisenhower said, “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

Who knows really? Perhaps this former President of the United States was a Mark Twain fan.

Today, you can go to Abilene, Kansas, in my home state to see the Presidential Library and former home of Eisenhower. He served in WWII and was a 5-star Army General, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, and also the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.  Richard Nixon was his Vice President.  Eisenhower is credited with the development of NASA and the space race, DARPA, and the Interstate Highway System.

Here are some other quotes associated with Eisenhower:

“Pessimism never won any battle.”

“We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it.”

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionable integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible.  No matter whether it is on a gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

“Plans are nothing but planning is everything.”

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”  

(Google Images.)

Years ago around 2002, I visited Buchenwald camp as a military spouse living in Germany. We were stationed near Vilseck and Grafenwoehr. Grafenwoehr is famous for the tower there which was erected for Hitler to overlook the training grounds in the 1930s. Later, when it came under Allied command, Grafenwoehr was a place that Elvis Presley was stationed during his time overseas.

In regards to Eisenhower, however, and getting back to the main subject….among his other noted decisions and achievements, Eisenhower was the first commander in Europe to openly discuss what was occurring at the camps. I remember touring Buchenwald that day in March and it was very cold even with coats bundled up. A wide swath of the forest on the hill had been cleared. This clearing was for the camp and buildings as well as a bear sanctuary oddly enough that was kept by the commander of the camp.

We walked through the old sites and the museums and I remember seeing Eisenhower’s pictures viewing Buchenwald after liberation. The camp means Beech Forest and is located near Weimar but it also rests in the same area that the famous German poet and creator of Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is said to have been inspired to write his works. There is an old oak tree in the camp that had not been cut down because it was called the Goethe Oak, the tree under which Goethe penned his writings. Another famous writer, Elie Wiesel, was also at Buchenwald and he later went on to write the book Night.

But anyway, back to Eisenhower, if you happen to be on the Interstate 70 (created under the Eisenhower administration) which cuts through the top portion of the state of Kansas from Missouri border to Colorado border, stop by Abilene for a visit. Besides being the home of a U.S. President, Abilene was the last stop on the Chisholm Trail where cowboys from Texas drove their herds north to Kansas to meet up with the Union Pacific railway station at Abilene. From there, the herds were shipped to Chicago stockyards and meatpacking industry. It’s in Chicago that Upton Sinclair would write The Jungle which became a bestseller in 1906 and pushed the creation of a Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Upton Sinclair also wrote about prisoner conditions at Ft. Leavenworth and was a journalist for a newspaper from my hometown region called The Appeal to Reason. At the turn of the century, around the 1900s, this newspaper rivaled the Los Angeles Times as third largest news distribution in the United States. That southeast corner of Kansas has a fascinating story. Just look up something called The March of the Amazons. It was the first women’s labor march in the United States as immigrant women, wives of the coal miners, took to the streets of Pittsburg to fight for better working conditions in the mines. At the time, Pittsburg was the third largest producer of coal in America and called The Little Balkans for the large immigrant population from southern Europe that lived there and worked in the mines. However, in the 1930s and 1940s, it was discovered that this coal was too environmentally hazardous and so the mines eventually closed down one by one.

You’d be surprised by the interesting history you can learn in Kansas of all places.