Remember, It Will Happen Again

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

911 Lights
Remember, It Will Happen Again

Wisconsin –-( When the Colonel was stationed in Colorado Springs my daughter would have campfire gatherings in our back yard with her fellow Air Academy high school band members.

In a backyard full of teenagers and limited light, you have a safety issue and I am not talking about children falling down. I have a large collection of Dietz kerosene lanterns, so my plan was to get one out, fill it with fuel, and have it ready for the next party.

The party was to be on the 12th of September 2008. The day before as I was readying the lantern, I noticed there was a piece of tape on the handle of the lantern with my last name written on the tape.

Then I remembered. The last time I had used this lantern was just after the 9-ll attack on New York and the Pentagon. I was standing there filling the lantern on 11 September 2008, seven years after the deadliest attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor.

We were stationed in Mississippi in 2001 and a number of my neighbors on Columbus Air Force Base decided to hold an impromptu memorial on the airbase. To get the word out I made signs and started putting them up all over the base.

We used an open grassy area in base housing that had limited light, so I got out a number of my kerosene lanterns. I put the tape with my name on the handles just in case the lanterns got misplaced. I had no idea if anyone would even show up, but that evening I was greatly surprised. Along with a couple of neighbors, we arrived early to set up under a large oak tree, just as the sun was going down.

And then people started showing up. Everybody walked from their homes in base housing. Some carrying small children, some pulling wagons with their children in them. One family had a large wagon with an American flag tied on and flowing in the wind. Others brought lanterns and we placed them in a row in front of the oak tree. I talked my next-door neighbor into playing some favorite American tunes on her flute. We sang a couple of songs and then folks wanted to speak. None of this was planned. A couple of folks offered up a prayer and there was crying. At that time we believed perhaps 7000 or more Americans had been killed.

We did not know who had attacked us and we were scared. We were on an Air Force base and everyone there that night was in the military or a family member of an airman. We, better than people outside the wire of the airbase, knew we were at war and what that meant. Airmen on Columbus AFB that day would soon be in harm’s way and some were not coming home.

Columbus AFB had one mission and that was to train pilots. Pilots, who would shortly be flying and still are flying in combat against people who not only hate us but want to destroy us. It has been eleven years and still “they” hate us.

My old Security Forces career field has lost eleven “cops” in this war and I know the deaths are not over. There truly is evil in the world and even if you disguise your hatred from me under the banner of your religion, you are still evil.

Everyone who studies history knows that the root of most wars is religion. If you do not understand your opponent’s beliefs, you are going to have a hard time figuring out how to counter their threat to you.

Evil cannot be negotiated away. You cannot buy off evil and you can not just ignore evil, as many in our country have suggested. I went ahead and got the Dietz lantern ready for my daughter’s get-together, but I left the piece of tape on the handle.

It was Sept 11th the day I was filling the tank with kerosene. Some day it will fall off on its own. We all need to remember–this is not over. We will be attacked again. The lantern now sits on a display shelf in my new Milwaukee County home. Eleven years, for many the pain is gone and 9-11 is a point in history.

For thousands who lost family and loved ones, they remember. For the hundreds who are dying a slow death because they rushed in to help and breathed the poisoned air—they need to be remembered.

And then there are all our “Troops” who have died since 9-11. Remember them and support our wounded warriors.

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.

Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret. , is a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Now retired, these days he enjoys camping, traveling, volunteering with the Girl Scouts and writing. [email protected]

Major Van Harl USAF Ret Winter 2014