By San Antonio Rose
A/N: I started this over the summer while working on another project related to my church's memorial service... I just couldn't help wondering what the Heroes would have been thinking, and I wanted some way to show how Romans 8:28 relates to 9/11. (And JUST to clarify, Carter is not taking the Lord's name in vain.)
Disclaimer: Hogan's Heroes belongs to Bing Crosby Productions/Hogan's Horde. There are some other random references to other things, but I don't own any of them. I intend no disrespect to any character, real or fictional, included in this story. Some of the portrayals in the last scene may not be entirely accurate, but when I find out for sure, it’ll be too late to come back and fix anything, so I’m afraid it’ll have to stand. (You’ll see why.) Please remember that this is taking place in the Hogan’s Heroes dimension (in which D-Day took place at night), not our own; that would account for some of the discrepancies.
you when the world stopped turning
That September day?
Out in the yard with your wife and your children
Or working on some stage in LA?
Did you cry out in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Rolling against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger and fear for your neighbor,
Or did you just sit down and cry?
I’m just a singer of simple songs,
I’m not a real political man.
I watch CNN, but I’m not sure I could tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran.
But I know Jesus and I talk to God,
And I remember this from when I was young:
Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us,
And the greatest is love.
September 11, 2001
9:02 a.m. EDT
Andrew Carter settled into the rocking chair on his son’s back porch. So far, it was shaping up to be a nice visit; it was just a shame Madie hadn’t been able to come. Peter was self-employed and business was slow of late, so he had had time to take his dad on sight-seeing tours or just sit around and shoot the breeze. Today the agenda consisted of a trip into New York City; the younger Carter lived roughly 20 miles north of NYC, far enough away to escape the problems of the city but close enough to enjoy its benefits. While Andrew had visited parts of the city before and enjoyed it, today he planned to tour the World Trade Center and look up one James Ivan Kinchloe III at Cantor Fitzgerald. Peter wasn’t too sure the young man would appreciate having one of his grandfather’s old war buddies drop in unexpectedly, but Andrew had promised Kinch that he’d look in on Jim, and so they were going.
That, at least, was the plan.
Andrew had just about dozed off in the balmy morning air when a sudden crash from the kitchen jolted him awake.
“DAD!” Peter yelled. “Come quick!”
Andrew got to his feet and hurried into the house as quickly as any 80-year-old man could. “What is it?” he called as he ran. “What happened?”
“A plane just hit the World Trade Center!”
Andrew’s face went pale. It went paler still when he reached the kitchen, stepped around the broken coffee cup on the linoleum, and saw the frightful image on the small kitchen TV screen. “I thought I heard something like a distant explosion…” he whispered, before his mind took off on a tangent of analysis and fear.
A jet. Jet fuel. Boy, that stuff burns hot. I hope Jim’s okay… it’d kill Kinch to lose his grandson this way. Jet fuel… and considering where the plane hit… it’s not gonna stand—it can’t stand—not with that heat… jet fuel… Sixty-year-old images of exploding rocket fuel depots and jet fuel convoys flashed through his mind. Another image soon joined them; a gasp from Peter snapped his attention back to the present, just as the TV replayed the video of the aircraft speeding toward the second tower and slamming into it, causing an explosion that wrenched the old demolition expert’s heart.
“Peter? Dad?” called a shaky female voice as the front door closed.
“In here, Val,” Peter replied.
Valerie Carter came running into the kitchen and threw her arms around her husband. “Thank God you two hadn’t left earlier. That was all I could think of as I was driving home from the store.”
“What are they saying on the radio?”
“They think some terrorist group is responsible. A lot of what they said didn’t sink in.”
“Same here. I don’t think Dad’s even listening.”
“You know,” Andrew began in a strangled voice, “I’ve seen a lot of jet fuel explosions in my time, but never in a million years did I think I’d see this….”
Peter and Valerie looked at each other, unsure of how to respond.
“I mean, that… that was war, back then… we had to blow things up back then. Sure, I… I like explosions and things, but… but there was a reason for it, for making bombs and designing better ones. This… this is senseless… this is what we fought to prevent… oh, man, what would Schultz say….”
Mercifully, before anyone could say anything more, the telephone rang. Valerie answered.
“Is Carter there?” asked a rich but shaking bass voice on the other end.
Valerie smiled in spite of herself, knowing that only her father-in-law’s fellow POWs would ask for any member of the family by last name. “He sure is, Uncle Kinch. Hold on.” She pressed the phone into the elder Carter’s hand.
“Hello?” Andrew forced himself to say when he lifted the receiver to his ear. He was still too shocked for his daughter-in-law’s words to have registered.
At the sound of the old familiar voice, Andrew broke down. “Kinch… oh, God… jet fuel, Kinch, jet fuel….”
“Andrew… Andrew, my Jimmy’s in that building….”
“I know… oh, Kinch… what are we gonna do?”
“I dunno, Andrew. I just don’t know.”
Peter and Valerie gently steered Andrew into the living room and settled him into a recliner with a box of Kleenex close at hand. They then tactfully withdrew, leaving him to share his grief with one of his oldest and dearest friends. After hugging his wife tightly for a moment, Peter went into his office and plugged the phone into the jack he usually used for his fax machine. He then picked up the receiver and punched a speed-dial code.
“Hello, Mom? It’s Peter… yeah, we’re fine. Dad’s on the phone with Kinch.”
“What’s that noise?” a housewife asked her best friend as they walked past a house on their way to lunch.
“It sounds like someone shouting.”
“Oh, that. That’s just Mr. Newkirk and Mr. LeBeau. They do that sometimes.”
“Wonder why they’re at it this time.”
“Not much telling… coo, looks like there’s something nasty on the telly. Disaster movie, maybe. Though why they’d get worked up over that I don’t know….”
To be fair, neither woman had yet heard the news.
Peter Newkirk and Louis LeBeau, however, had. And while the scrappy Frenchman and wisecracking Cockney had become somewhat infamous for their shouting matches (usually with regard to culinary issues) since they had decided to share a house outside London after their wives passed away ten years earlier, today they were not shouting at each other. Their swearing was reserved for murderers in New York.
After letting out a final volley of curses, LeBeau sagged into a chair. “Incroyable,” he sighed with a shake of his head. “Not even the Boche would do such a thing to America.”
“Well, they did bomb London, but we were already at war,” Newkirk shrugged wearily.
“Oui, c’est vrai. Doesn’t Kinch have a grandson who works at the World Trade Center?”
“Cor blimey, you’re right. If those rotten blighters killed him….”
“I know, Pierre, I know. But this President will not let them get away with it, whoever they are. Besides, we are too old to fight anymore.”
“Yeah, you’re right, Louis. All the same, it just don’t feel right sittin’ ’ere doin’ nothin’.”
Louis stood. “Eh bien, we shall do something.”
“Get your coat and come with me.”
“Where’re we goin’?”
“To the church, where else? When there is nothing else to do, we can pray.”
“Pray… d’ya know ’ow long it’s been, mon ami?”
“Too long, Pierre.”
“Too long. Well, maybe the ol’ noggin can still remember, eh? Let’s go.”
10:45 am CDT
Ret. Major General Robert E. Hogan finally switched off the television and buried his face in his hands. It was all too much. Pearl Harbor was one thing; at least then we knew Japan was on the warpath, he thought. But this… this just came out of nowhere. And the Japanese attacked the military; these bozos killed civilians. Well, I suppose the Pentagon could be considered a military strike, but nevertheless….
Hogan sighed, shook his head, and made his way to the kitchen. He wasn’t really hungry, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. There wasn’t anything he could do, anyway; he knew the phone lines would be down, and since he had long since retired from the Air Force, he assumed that there wouldn’t be much for him to help with even if he volunteered.
So, pouring himself a cup of coffee, he sighed again and allowed himself to slowly slide into shock.
He wished he knew how to get hold of his men. The thought made him pause, a smile twitching on the corners of his mouth. Sixty years later, they’re still “my men.” Doesn’t matter how many other men I’ve had under my command. That group from Stalag 13… I guess they’ll always be “my men.” My friends. My brothers.
The half-smile grew more wistful as he remembered those friends and the many others whom he came to know and love in the three years he spent at Luftstalag 13. Many had died in combat or in Gestapo captivity as a result of the operation, but Hogan had managed to keep tabs on several of the ones who survived. He’d actually married Tiger after the war, but she died of pneumonia in the early 1990s. Schultz and Klink were gone, too, and he had lost track of most of the underground members he’d known. He’d had better luck keeping in touch with his fellow prisoners, but their number decreased almost daily; the survivors sometimes wondered if Hogan, now 91, would be leaving them soon, but he seemed to be made of the same stuff as George Burns and Bob Hope and wasn’t planning on dying anytime soon. Baker, the youngest member of the unit, had surprised everyone by being one of the first to pass away; he was only 65 when a series of strokes and heart attacks claimed his life.
Hogan sighed yet again. New grief brings up old grief, he remembered someone telling him during one of their many debriefing sessions. I suppose someone my age can be forgiven for being morbid, especially at a time like this. Still, I wish I knew how my boys are holding up… but I don’t really feel like talking. Not yet. Not about this.
His reverie was broken by the doorbell ringing insistently. Frowning, Hogan set down his coffee cup and made his way through the house to the front door. He opened the door to discover the last person he had expected to see standing on his doorstep.
Her hair was still red, large parts of it artificially so. She looked her age and then some, although the redness of her eyes and her overall haggard expression were probably due more to recent weeping than hard living; in fact, mascara-tinted tears coursed down her cheeks as she stood there. Still, Hogan wasn’t able to stifle a startled gasp.
“Hogan, darling…” she choked out, then flung herself into his arms, sobbing violently.
Silently cursing the Russian temperament, the elderly general gently led his visitor into the living room and attempted to find some Kleenex for her. Of all the things I didn’t need… but she is company… Hogan waffled, as always, between frustration at Marya’s intrusion and gratitude for her presence.
After a good fifteen minutes of hysterics, Marya released her grip on Hogan and began drying her tears with the proffered Kleenex. Hogan looked woefully at the mascara stains on his shirt, although the practical part of his mind reminded him that that was really the least of his worries at the moment.
“Ah, Hogan darling,” Marya finally sighed after dramatically blowing her nose. “To think that such a thing could happen to the United States… never, never would I have believed it!”
The part of Hogan’s mind that had resented Marya’s theatrics instantly felt guilty. “Did you know anyone who… was there?” he asked gently.
Marya nodded. “I have kept track of most of the Russian workers there at some time for the KGB. Some of them I knew personally; a few were friends. I cannot find out how many survived.”
She looked at him shrewdly. “You know some others, am I right?”
Hogan nodded sadly. “Kinch’s grandson worked at the Trade Center. And then there’s the Pentagon….”
Marya nodded. “Yes. The Pentagon.”
After a long pause, Hogan asked, “Um, Marya, why did you come here?”
She shrugged. “I was in Cleveland and did not want to be alone at a time like this.” Before he could say anything, she added, “Don’t worry, darling. Although I still adore you as I always have since we first met in Paris, that is not the reason why I came. I just thought it would be better to spend some time with an old friend than to try to explain myself to younger friends who don’t know me as well.”
After another pause, he stated, “I think I might drive up to Detroit after lunch to be with Kinch. Would you… want to come along?”
“Together again?” she asked with a mischievous smile. He started to protest, but she interrupted with a more serious expression, “No, no, darling, not like that. Yes, I will come. We worked together well; why would we not grieve together well? And at times like this, it is not wise to be alone.”
“You’ve got a point,” he admitted. “When can you be ready?”
“Whenever you are. I brought my luggage in case you invited me to stay.”
Hogan rolled his eyes in spite of himself. “You haven’t changed a bit, have you, Marya?”
“Perhaps not,” she winked. “But neither have you. You’re still a fun person.”
“Not fun enough to have any vodka in the house….”
“Good. I am not allowed to drink, anyway. The doctors….”
“Say no more. They told me the same thing about twenty years ago.”
“Then shall we talk of those topics on our way instead of the tragedy of today?”
Hogan managed a small smile. “I don’t think I can talk about today.”
Marya nodded, understanding. “Then I can tell you what I just found out about our old comrade DuBois….”
Oh, brother, Hogan thought, and headed into the kitchen with Marya on his heels, chattering happily in an attempt to maintain normal conversation. Deep down, though, he knew she was right; without her around, he would probably have gone into a dangerous depression… which would be no way for the great Papa Bear to meet his end.
Olsen turned to see Baker striding toward him. “Hi there, Baker! Long time, no see!”
“What are you doing here? You weren’t at the Pentagon, were you?”
“Nope. Cardiac arrest… shock from the news, I think. My ticker’s been bad for several years and getting worse, and I guess my system just couldn’t take it. I was here before I realized what was happening. It’s been kinda tough getting in the Gate, though, with all these new arrivals all at once… I’ve seen Himself already, but that’s it.”
“I understand. I’ve been trying to find someone, myself.”
“Haven’t seen him. I think the Cantor Fitzgerald group is over there.” Olsen pointed toward a group of roughly six hundred souls. “But no, I haven’t seen him.”
“Well, Kinch raised his boys right, so if Jimmy was caught, I’d expect him to be here.”
“Have you found him?” called a familiar voice with a German accent.
“No,” Baker called back, “but look who I did find!”
Olsen was startled as Schultz, much younger and thinner than the prisoners had ever seen him, jogged toward them. “Ah! Sergeant Olsen! Wilkommen!” As soon as the former guard reached the Americans, he grabbed Olsen’s hand and shook it warmly.
“Heya, Schultz! I didn’t recognize you!” Olsen beamed.
“And I did not expect to see you! Well, I did not expect so many…” Schultz waved his hand; no further explanation was needed. Then his voice dropped as he continued, “I did wonder why they were building so many mansions all of a sudden… but I didn’t like to ask because I knew I would not like the answer.”
“And I bet this isn’t even all of them,” Baker sighed.
“Total casualties or all who are coming here?” Olsen asked.
“You may be right.”
The three of them stood a moment in somber silence.
“Also,” Schultz finally sighed, “I suppose we should keep looking.”
Olsen nodded, pulled himself together, and marched over to one of the Cantor Fitzgerald employees, Schultz and Baker in tow. “Excuse me, ma’am…” he called.
The lady turned. “Yes? Can I help you?”
“We’re looking for a friend of ours who may… be with this group. James Kinchloe. We know he worked for Cantor Fitzgerald….”
“Jim? I think he was out of the office…” she turned to a colleague. “Didn’t he have to run some papers over to NASDAQ?”
“Not today,” the second lady, a secretary, frowned as she tried to remember. “But he was gone… oh, I know, he had to meet some clients across town at 9 this morning. So no, he’s not here.”
The WWII veterans heaved a collective sigh of relief.
“Why do you ask?”
“Well,” Baker explained, “his grandfather was a friend of ours, and we were afraid that if Jimmy were here, we could expect his grandfather and several of our other friends to follow in short order.”
“And while we’d love to see them all again, we’re not in that big of a hurry,” Olsen added.
The women nodded, understanding perfectly. The three men thanked them and took their leave.
As Baker, Olsen, and Schultz made their way through the streets of gold, their conversation slowly turned to old memories and new news, and Olsen began to feel even more at home than he had when he first reached Heaven’s gates. They also ran into old friends, heroes, and long-lost family, with each meeting or reunion being more joyful than the last. By the time the trio reached Olsen’s new mansion, the tragedy of the day had been almost forgotten.
Some time later, Jesus poked His head through the front door, which was standing open so that anyone who wished to could drop by. “I just wanted to see how you were settling in,” He smiled as Olsen greeted Him.
“And we wanted to thank You for sparing Jimmy,” Olsen replied, bowing awkwardly.
“I still have plans for him on Earth,” Jesus answered. “But I’m glad you approve,” He added with a wink.
Olsen laughed. The tone reminded him exactly of Col. Hogan.
“Um, Lord,” Baker began uncomfortably, “I don’t want to seem impertinent….”
“No one can be impertinent here. What is it you wish to ask?”
“Well… why’d You let it happen? I mean, I know You kept it from being any worse than it was, but why’d it have to happen at all?”
Jesus’ smile grew more grave. “I’m afraid I can’t answer that completely yet, not even here. But I can show you some of the good that came from it. Come.”
He led them to a window and caused a vision to appear before them:
American flags disappearing from store shelves and coming out of closets and storage sheds to be displayed on every available surface; red, white, and blue becoming the “in” colors for just about everything; a nation formerly divided pulling together to become “one nation under God” once again.
Crowds lining up outside churches around the world to memorialize the fallen and to seek after God; people genuinely getting their lives straightened out because of the newfound realization that life is short and that God is a necessary part of life; the energizing of Christians everywhere to repent and seek revival.
Donations pouring in to aid organizations; blood drive lines stretching so long that workers had to turn people away; volunteers hurrying across the country to take supplies and labor to the attack sites.
A president rising in righteous anger and vowing to bring those who threaten the world’s peace to justice.
A powerful alliance toppling a tyrannical regime in less than two months.
The liberation of an entire people—including eight foreign aid workers imprisoned on false charges. And the eventual return of peace to the region, accompanied by a new constitution and free democratic elections for the first time in decades.
The capture of hundreds upon hundreds of suspected terrorists and the prosecution of those known to have terror links.
Another alliance charging through the desert to capture a capital within three weeks and, nine months later, the dictator who had tortured his own people and threatened the rest of the free world.
And a reunion in Detroit to celebrate God’s mercy to one James Ivan Kinchloe III. Marya, Hogan, Kinch, Carter, LeBeau, and Newkirk were there with their families, and several of the other remaining Heroes showed up to lend their support. Jimmy, struggling with survivor guilt and post-traumatic stress, eventually left Cantor Fitzgerald and took a job with Edward Jones in Detroit so that he could be with his grandfather; while the wounds were slow to heal, support from family, friends, and church helped them both through the hard times. Eventually Jimmy recovered enough to join the Detroit Police Department as a volunteer chaplain and grief counselor.
These things and more Jesus showed Baker, Olsen, and Schultz before the vision faded. “Yes,” He said softly as they turned back toward Him, “We had Our reasons. It’s never an easy decision, and We can’t always explain why until the End, but rest assured, We had Our reasons.” A grim light came into His eyes as He continued, “And rest equally assured that they will get theirs. The hijackers already have. And unless the others repent, which is doubtful, they too will know My Father’s justice.”
“It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God,” Schultz quoted in a low voice, somewhat dismayed at seeing this side of His Savior in person.
“It is indeed,” Jesus nodded. Then He smiled at them. “I am as glad as you are that I can say to you ‘Well done’ instead of ‘Depart, I never knew you.’ It always grieves Us when people reject Us until it’s too late, but We always rejoice when someone accepts us and We can share Our joy with him!”
“In that case, Lord,” Olsen grinned, “I just have to say… thank You, and it’s good to be home.”