For this editor, my first news of the Munich massacre came on ABC news as I waited for an Olympic update while doing my homework. I was in my freshman year at DeSmet Jesuit High in Creve Coeur, Missouri. I had just begun cross country. Jim McKay of ABC sports, the finest sportscaster of my generation in this country, announced the updates with respectfulness that I recall today, some fifty years later.
My history teacher and the Varsity cross country and Basketball coach, Mr. Rich Grawer, took the time to explain the absolute insanity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We were 14-15-year-olds, and the world had reared its ugly head.
I learned early on that great sporting events, even the hallowed Olympics, could be destroyed by global politics. In university, I went to school with students from all over the Middle East. I have traveled and worked extensively in the Middle East and have a hard time understanding why followers of Islam and Judaism are not always working together.
I am grateful to my friend, senior editor Stuart Weir, for writing this column. In my mind, it is the most important piece we will do this year.
For someone of my age, it is impossible to be in the Olympic Park in Munich without recalling the terrible massacre of Israeli athletes during the Olympic Games exactly 50 years ago. In an attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, eleven Israeli Olympic team members were held hostage and subsequently killed, along with a German police officer, by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September.
It was a poignant moment when Israel picked up three medals in the marathon, the first event in the program, something which was not lost on Maru Teferi, one of the medalists “It was an excellent team effort of the team Israel. We are very pleased with it, especially because these championships mark the 50th anniversary of the tragic events that took place here in Munich in 1972. I would like to dedicate this medal to all the families of the victims and to send my love to everyone. As soon as we realized that these championships were going to take place here in Munich, we felt it in the heart, an inner strength to the best we can to honour those families”.
The City of Munich has done well to preserve the memory with a permanent exhibition and a separate memorial. The 1972 Olympic Village still stands. I walked past it every day on the way in.