Story and photos by Karl Weisel
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office
Sept. 11, 2012, started with an auditorium full of students commemorating Patriot Day/National Day of Service and Remembrance and concluded with a rain-drenched motorcycle rally to Veterans Park on Clay Kaserne.
The common theme for the military community youths and German-American bikers was remembering those killed on 9-11 and those still serving in harm’s way to help make the world a safer place for everyone.
“Today is a solemn occasion where we memorialize the men and women who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Dr. Susan Hargis, Wiesbaden Middle School principal.
As music teacher Annette Benton led the middle school band through a series of patriotic songs, guest speaker U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Command Sgt. Maj. Sa’eed Mustafa talked about his recollections of 9-11 and its impact on a generation of men and women in uniform. Telling the students the 11th anniversary of 9-11 was a day to “remember, pay respect and celebrate,” Mustafa described how he had just finished physical training in Fort Carson, Colo., when he got the news of the terrorist attack on his home state of New York.
“That day it was sunny and it was bright and it seemed like a normal day,” Mustafa told his young listeners, adding that he had only recently welcomed a daughter into the world (now a member of the Wiesbaden Middle School band). “But then a phone call came in from the platoon sergeant. … He said ‘you have to go and turn on the TV.’”
Mustafa said he, like the rest of the world that day, stood in horror as he watched thousands of people being killed in a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Mustafa told the youths that for him, a native of Highland, N.Y., and someone who visited the World Trade Center as an eighth-grader, watching the destruction was especially hard. “The World Trade Center meant a lot to me. Whenever I went I went home to New York, I always felt like I was home when I looked over and saw the towers. Now I’m in front of the television and the World Trade Center is on fire.
“As we were watching, we saw a second plane fly into the second tower. … I turned to my Soldiers and said, ‘this is no accident – get ready to go to war.’
“Eleven years later and what we’ve seen is our country has been at war to defend freedom,” Mustafa said. “How many of you here have parents in the military? Let’s give them a round of applause. … They do it for love of their country.”
Going back to his original theme, the garrison’s senior noncommissioned officer said that while remembering is crucial, paying respect is equally important — “respect for the people in uniform and respect for your teachers.
“How can we celebrate something on such a day of loss,” Mustafa asked his listeners. “We celebrate because we have had resolve; we have been resilient. On this day you are here free to learn, to go about your daily lives thanks to the sacrifices of so many people.
“We must reflect on those things, but we must also celebrate,” he said, charging the students to learn everything they can and to be the best they can be.
As many people were settling down to an evening meal at home that evening, members of the Wiesbaden-Nassau Harley Owners Group were headed through a driving rain to Wiesbaden’s Clay Kaserne. It was the 11th year since 2001 that the German-American club had commemorated 9-11 with the motorcycle rally.
After placing a wreath at Veterans Park on Clay Kaserne the club members paid tribute with a moment of silence.
“They have been doing this every year since the tragedy occurred,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Scott, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade’s senior NCO and a member of the Wiesbaden-Nassau Harley Owners Group. “We’re here to commemorate something that is greater than us.”
Scott and fellow club member and veteran Bruce Hills said the chapter has started a fundraising effort to have a dedicated 9-11 memorial. “We’re trying to generate some interest and support.”
Hills said people interested in the fund-raising effort can visit the club’s website at www.wiesbaden-nassau-chapter.de for more information. People interested in joining the club can call Hills at civ (06151) 62442 or (0171) 802 1954.
“Anybody’s welcome — they don’t have to have a motorcycle,” he said.