Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

As an octogenarian and 20-year resident of the Vineyard, I’m following the debate on the matter of the most desirable emergency medical dispensing site (Jan. 9 Gazette).

It seems to me that Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake is entirely wise in stating that asking all Vineyarders to head for the high school in the summer months is not feasible. Certainly I, in Vineyard Haven, would not want to face the traffic jam that would exist just between our two towns.

His and Peter Martell’s suggestion that there be four sites in summer is surely workable. There would be no shortage of willing workers, I believe, who could be recruited around Memorial Day, receive instruction and be available until Labor Day, that being generally the high traffic period.

When the Homeland Security Act of 2002 ordered communities to make plans, it would surprise me to hear that they expected any six towns with population totaling around 100,000 to select one single site. The many college-age young people working here in summer would surely be glad to be ready to help at one of the four Island sites, along with other Islanders.

Leigh Smith

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I want to thank the only person (out of the hundred or so who just drove by) who stopped to ask if I needed a ride Saturday, as I sat off the road with my hazards on.

Anita Keegan



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

One of my Christmas cards was returned today marked “undeliverable.” Having known the lady to whom the card had been addressed, I can only assume that she was gone. Her name doesn’t matter now; in fact her name was taken from her when she was about 16 in Eastern Europe and she was assigned a number which stayed with her for two years in Auschwitz concentration camp, from which she was transferred to Bergen-Belsen Camp in early 1945, from which she was eventually liberated in May of that year by the British Second Army in Germany. She weighed 50 pounds that day. Troops of the Scottish Regiment reacted with stunned horror when the German commandant asked them to take over the cruel and obscene guard duty of the Nazi personnel. Instead he and his cohorts were assigned to hand dig enormous mass graves one of which I remember was marked “3,000.” The statistics were staggering and unbelievable, and I have my own Brownie camera photographs to prove it, such as those of the gibbet and the crates of burned and crushed human bones destined to be used as fertilizer.

Across the nearby Baltic Sea lay peaceful Sweden which had managed to remain neutral all during the terrible war raging nearby. Now as Germany collapsed, utterly defeated, the Swedes rallied to help assuage the awfulness of the concentration camps and took thousands of those inmates who had at least some prospect of survival. The woman to whom I referred earlier was one of those fortunates who were accepted by the Swedish people and underwent a long physical and mental rehabilitation. I do not know how or when, but eventually she came to America, married and lived in or near Seattle, Wash. For years she tried to find anyone who had been among those who liberated the Belsen Camp and eventually she did find some of the American Field Service volunteer ambulance drivers who had in fact worked with the British Army personnel in the camp. I myself did not work inside the camp but rather outside, ferrying missions to ambulance trains or army field hospitals nearby. To handle the needs for this camp alone the British flew in two complete field hospitals.

In 2003 at a Field Service reunion in Washington, D.C., this remarkable woman addressed us, expressing her appreciation and saying when offered a seat by the microphone, “No! I won’t sit down. I’ll stand to tell my story.” This was the lady whose Christmas card was returned to me this week. I will never forget her nor will my wife who had dinner with her at the same meeting.

And yes, war may not be the answer but neither is pacifism for in the final analysis, eventually right must stand up and be counted even if it means pulling a trigger.

Why do I write this letter? I don’t know, but I had to. Perhaps it’s just to put in writing my own determination that this terrible episode never be forgotten and never be repeated, even when and after all of us are gone. I reject all personal notice or praise for having only a small ancillary participation on the fringes of the effort to express the universal disgust at the terrible inhumanity of those who perpetrated these incredible indignities and worse to so many millions of their fellow men and women. Those of my friends who handled the dying and dead and who buried the wasted bodies in the mass graves are the ones who must be remembered for their grisly efforts to save those few who could be saved and to bury those who could not. There were no heroes at the liberation of Belsen.

Tom Hale

Vineyard Haven