Reliving my history

Moammar Gadhafi was killed today. All day long I’ve been reliving the fear he brought to me and my family 25 years ago. And I’m sure that’s small compared to terrors he’s wrought upon people in his own country.

25 years ago, I was a military wife with young children. We lived in Berlin, at that time an occupied territory as it had been since the end of WWII. Berlin was a city where many people came for political asylum, and there were many Libyans in the city, especially on the east side of the Wall.

April 6th is carved in my memory, as the day of the bombing at La Belle discotheque. I’ve never been there, but lots of our soldiers and airmen went there. The bomb was hidden under a table, and when it blew up, U.S. Sergeant Kenneth T. Ford and a Turkish civilian woman were killed instantly. A second American, Sergeant James E. Goins, died from his injuries two months later. 230 people were injured.

37 military members were awarded the purple heart in a ceremony on Memorial Day that year, in accordance with an Executive Order made in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan authorizing the Purple Heart for military members injured as a result of terrorist actions. I was a Cub Scout leader, and we took the pack to the ceremony at Clay Headquarters. It was a sobering event, and one I hope the kids still remember. The online archived Berlin Observer takes me back to that day like it was yesterday. The Observer lists the names of the Purple Heart recipients on page 12.

On April 15th of 1986, I woke to AFN (Armed Forces Network) radio reports that President Reagan had ordered a bombing of Libya in retaliation. What followed was a period of highest security, to protect against potential further Libyan action. Berlin American High School, where I taught, was surrounded by tanks. One of our biggest problems as teachers was keeping the girls from going out and flirting with the 40th Armored tank soldiers.

Each of the school buses that carried the American kids across the city was assigned 2 armored jeeps (front and back). Lining up all those buses and their jeeps (who would NOT leave their bus) was a real challenge.

The elementary school had infantry soldiers guarding all the doors. They inspected every backpack and lunch box that entered – and critiqued the kids’ lunches (to their delight).

It was quite a time. Vehicles were inspected for potential car bombs driving in and out of military installations and housing. And yes, there were a number of bombs. One day I saw one explode in a parking lot.  Whenever we found an unattended parcel anywhere, we called the military police, and they dispatched weapons experts. I still experience paralyzing fear when I find backpacks in the library – and yes, I do take precautions. It’s funny how we become the sum total of all our experiences.

Memorial Plaque
Memorial plaque reading, "In this house on the 5th of April, 1986, young people were murdered by a criminal bomb attack"


Remembering JFK

If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.

Senator JOHN F. KENNEDY, response to questionnaire, Saturday Review, October 29, 1960, p. 44.

Dion sings Abraham and Martin and John

Today is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It is probably the only clear childhood memory I have — the desk where I sat and the terror I felt that the world had spun so out of control that the President of the U.S. could be shot.

Apostrophe Ambiguity

My Veterans Day post concerning to apostrophe or not to apostrophe garnered at least as many hits via search engines as any other single post I’ve written. Seems that we are an apostrophe-challenged society, but I’m heartened to see how many people are searching for correct usage.

So now as I write notices to close libraries on Presidents/Presidents’/President’s Day, I am moved to write another apostrophe post. So I went to Wikipedia, and found that all 3 have instances of correct usage:

President’s Day — when speaking of only one president

Presidents’ Day — when recognizing multiple presidents

Presidents Day — favored by the Associated Press Stylebook, which is followed by journalists and public relations folks

So, in case you’re wondering, I settled on Presidents Day. Have a good one, if you’re lucky enough to get it off. And, in keeping with U.S. Senate tradition since 1862, read George Washington’s Farewell Address.

Washington’s Farewell Address, from The Papers of George Washington at the University of Virginia:
Handwritten Facsimile

The War

Ken Burns’s film The War premiered tonight. I’m looking forward to the next six episodes, three more to be aired this week and three next week on PBS. I recommend it. There have been many reviews even before the first episode aired – everyone has an opinion. I probably won’t critique it – but it totally captivated me.

A number of my family members are WWII veterans, and they have shared virtually nothing about the war. I was in Washington D.C. shortly after the World War II Memorial opened, and shared pictures when I got home. While Dad and others are not able to travel, they were pleased that there is a memorial. Even those family members who were not in uniform were profoundly affected. Many of the things said on The War, I’ve heard from my mother, who was a college student at the time.

Day of the American Cowboy

Today, July 28th, is National Day of the American Cowboy, introduced into the Senate by Wyoming Senator Thomas Craig* on March 21, 2007 and passed by the Senate May 25, 2007. S. Res. 130 .

The Cowboy is not only an American tradition, but a very real part of western life, which I grew to appreciate while living in South Dakota. The opening lines of the resolution relate the importance of the American Cowboy very well:

  • Whereas pioneering men and women, recognized as cowboys, helped establish the American West;
  • Whereas that cowboy spirit continues to infuse this country with its solid character, sound family values, and good common sense;
  • Whereas the cowboy embodies honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, and patriotism;
  • Whereas the cowboy loves, lives off of, and depends on the land and its creatures, and is an excellent steward, protecting and enhancing the environment;
  • Whereas the cowboy continues to play a significant role in the culture and economy of the United States;
  • Whereas approximately 800,000 ranchers are conducting business in all 50 States and are contributing to the economic well being of nearly every county in the Nation;
  • resolution continues

Some of the best library programs we sponsored in South Dakota featured cowboy poets. There’s a great cowboy poetry site Cowboy Music and Poetry from the Western Folklife Center in Elko Nevada. For a modern poet, I especially like Linda Hasselstrom. Read or listen to her Carolyn, Miranda, and Me.

*Senator Thomas served in the Senate for 12 years, and died June 4, 2007 of complications of leukemia following treatment. (Wikipedia)