DARMSTADT, Germany - Two countries, two flags, two armies and hundreds of memories were gathered here Tuesday to commemorate Sept. 11 - that of six years ago and another from almost six decades earlier.
Those attending recalled not only the suffering experienced by the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, but the grief of two nations as well. Fifty-seven years earlier, on Sept. 11, 1944, Darmstadt was destroyed during an allied bombing campaign near the end of World War II.
This tragic historical coincidence has allowed the defining moment for one community to have a shared meaning for another.
For the United States, 9/11 was the beginning of the global war on terror. For Darmstadt in 1944, Sept. 11 was the final stages of World War II and the end of its title as the capital city of Hessen.
Following 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93, Darmstadt city officials reached out to the United States and placed a commemorative plaque outside of Kelley Barracks. Since then, Darmstadt city officials, residents and U.S. servicemembers gather annually to remember the tragic Sept. 11 events of each nation.
The 105th Military Intelligence Battalion hosted this year's remembrance, complete with a color guard and wreath-laying ceremony. Chaplain (Maj.) William Weichl, 66th Military Intelligence Group, encouraged attendees to "never forget this loss of human life," and to remember that both countries "work in large ways and small towards peace."
Tuesday, the first commemorative flower wreath was given by the city of Darmstadt and laid by Stadtrat Dieter Wenzel and Lt. Col. David Astin, garrison commander. The second wreath was provided by U.S. troops stationed here and laid by Hauptmann Christoph Fuhrmann, German Bundeswehr, and Lt. Col. Ivory Freeman, commander of the 105th MI Bln. The third and final wreath - pink roses donated annually by Brigitta Heist, a Darmstadt businesswoman - was placed by Darmstadt fire chief Johann Braxenthaler and Command Sergeant Major David Redmon, 66th MI Group.
"It is important that we continue to come together and remember," said Lt. Col. Ivory Freeman, 105th Military Intelligence Brigade commander. "It is what bonds us together and makes us truly strong."
After the ceremony, city officials and Astin traveled to a Darmstadt memorial dedicated to more than 11,000 Darmstadters who died Sept. 11, 1944.
With USAG Darmstadt scheduled to close next year, this likely will be the final time the garrison will formally meet with the city to hold a remembrance of Sept. 11 events that touched each nation.