As credentialed media, I have been coming to Aachen for 23 years! Last year just before I was to take off for Aachen again, I wound up in the hospital for three weeks after a horrible accident on my four-wheeler ATV described by my Euro friends as a “quad”. I still remember waking from surgery to a sea of Doctors at the foot of my bed telling me of all my broken bones. “Does this mean I cannot go to Germany next week?” I cried. To be alive, and well with my stamina finally returned, being back at Aachen had new meaning for me. The first stop we made was to the in gate of the famed Aachen stadium to visit our long time friends Manfred and Marion Heinrichsen. On my first trip to Aachen as press in 1987 I met Marion a teenager who worked in the ladies room at the Dressage Stadium.
I was not used to paying money to use the bathroom, and visited Marion often throughout the week. She asked if she could write to me to practice her English, and this began a lifelong friendship with us visiting her and Marion coming to visit us in America several times finally bringing her father and breaking his fear of flying.
In 2005 we brought Marion’s mother Monica to the hospital for treatment for her recently discovered cancer, which sadly took her life shortly after that. This year on Laura Kraut’s victory round from her big win where the prize was a foal, she tossed Marion her bouquet of roses, which she took home and placed in a vase next to her mother’s picture. USA Team showjumping coach George Morris calls Marion “his secret girlfriend” and all the showjumping riders know the father/daughter team who greets them as they enter the arena.
Now working as a secretary for a large firm, Marion uses a full week of her yearly vacation to join her father at the in gate of the Aachen show jumping stadium, definitely the best job of all. In fact last year the story of our friendship was written about in the Aachen newspaper. Marion did not learn until the final day why I was not there. This year not only Marion and her Father greet me with special hugs, but all of their longtime colleagues at the in gate we have come to know also expressed their concerns about my accident. And hanging with them next to the television crew where coaches grooms and owners stand to watch the rounds is the best seat in the house!