Somewhere on A1A...

Thursday, September 05, 2002

The following article is part of a blogburst - a simultaneous and cross-linked posting of many blogs on the same theme. This blogburst commemorates the Munich Olympics Massacre which began in the dawn
hour of September 5th, 1972. Go to the The Index of the Munich Massacre Blogburst to find links to all the other articles.

September 5, 1972
Even before the events of September 5, 1972, the XXth Olympiad was the most memorable gathering of the World’s athletes in modern history. Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals, more than any athlete in history in a single Olympiad. Olga Korbut won gold and the hearts of the world with a virtually perfect performance. The USA basketball team lost the Gold to the Russians in a controversial 3 seconds. But these performances, as memorable as they are, were completely overshadowed by the events of this date thirty years ago. Today we remember the lives lost and the shattered innocence during those Games.

September 5, 1972 is the day the PLO introduced themselves to me. I saw them on TV only as heartless, selfish, evil criminals. As a young teen I didn’t really know what a terrorist was until their masked figures appeared on our TVs and shattered my naivety. Those PLO terrorists wanted to bring attention to their “cause”. They got my attention, all right but they got no sympathy for their cause. In destroying the showcase event of International cooperation, they gave up any chance of getting my sympathy for whatever ‘cause’ they claimed to stand for. They were simply criminals, dangerous, evil criminals.

The Olympic Games were, for many, a respite from Cold War tensions. They were a peaceful, exuberant gathering of athletes beyond the politics of a bi-polar world. The Olympic spirit is illustrated by this story, told by Ankie Spitzer in One Day in September by Simon Reeve. Ankie’s husband Andre was the Israeli Fencing Coach… one of the 11 murdered.

…with Andre in his element as a participant in a uniquely international event. He was a man who passionately believed the Olympics could break down national barriers, and after one of his competitions he spotted members of the Lebanese team and told Ankie he was gong to say hello to them.
Ankie had immediate reservations. “I said to him,” ‘Are you out of your mind?! They’re from Lebanon!” Israel was in a state of war with Lebanon at the time.”

“Ankie,” said Andre calmly, “that’s exactly what the Olympics are about. Here I can go to them, I can talk to them, I can ask them how they are. That’s exactly what the Olympics are all about.”

“So he went…towards this Lebanese team, and…he asked them, ‘How you’re your results?’ and ‘I’m from Israel and how did it go?’ And to my amazement, I saw that the [Lebanese] responded and they shook hands with him and they talked to him and they asked him about his results. I’ll never forget when he turned around and came back towards me with this huge smile on his face. ‘You see!’ said Andre excitedly. ‘This is what I was dreaming about, I knew it was going to happen.’ ”
Andre’ realized his dream and then had it shattered.

Many, many dreams were shattered as we listened to Jim McKay, the voice of The Wide World of Sports, and the voice of the Olympics, relay the tragic events. Mr. McKay’s innocent joy in athletic competition was ripped from him, just as it was from us, as he was forced into focusing on the horrible crime as America, in shock, watched and waited. Innocent enjoyment evaporated into fear and anger as those evil figures murdered eleven people simply to get some attention.

Andre Spitzer….. Yossef Romano….. Moshe Weinberg….. Jacov Springer….. Amitzur Shapira….. Eliezer Halfin….. Zeev Friedman….. Yossef Gutfreund….. Mark Slavin….. Kehat Shorr….. David Berger All murdered.

During a visit to Munich in 1983, I took a ride on a bus that passed the Olympic Stadium. Before we came upon the stadium I was presented with a haunting view of a group of Apartment buildings which I immediately recognized as the one time Olympic Village. I was surprised by the depth of emotion that the sudden memory of the murders and the events from 11 years earlier. One of the emotions that grabbed me was fear. I felt fear at being reminded of the evil people involvedin the horrendous act. This tiem it was on a sight seeing tour instead of watching TV, but once again innocent joy was replaced by fear and anger. That flash from the past brought me starkly into the present. My short visit to Munich was just a short diversion on journey way to Beirut.

I was heading, for a short time, to be a part of the multi-national Peacekeeping force deployed in Beirut. The fear I felt that day in Munich was a fear and loathing of the evil methods and evil leadership of the PLO. Those senseless murders in 1972 were just the beginning of a different evil, a more violent and vicious campaign of terror whose epicenter, in 1983, had moved to Lebanon… and I was on my way there.

In 1972 I was introduced to the PLO by watching masked criminals on TV in Munich. In 1983, while standing in Munich, I was reminded, not only of the Olympic murders, but that the murderers, the PLO, were the same people who would soon be posing a threat to my life. Suddenly the Munich terror was very real to me.

Today, thirty years later, I hope the events are real to you. I hope you take the time to remember the lives lost, the families torn apart, and the collective loss of innocence we all experienced as a result of that one day in September 1972.


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