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A Survivor's Tale
Rick Reilly
August 07, 2006
First guy to the dorm always gets the best room, right? So Dani Alon snagged the sweet second-floor room with the balcony. Building number 2, 31 Connollystrasse. Who was going to mess with Israel's fencing champ?
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August 07, 2006

A Survivor's Tale

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First guy to the dorm always gets the best room, right? So Dani Alon snagged the sweet second-floor room with the balcony. Building number 2, 31 Connollystrasse. Who was going to mess with Israel's fencing champ?

Soon everyone was filing into their rooms--the shooters, the weightlifters, the wrestlers. Alon's event came early in the schedule and he won five of his foil bouts, beating a German, an Argentine, an Irishman, an Italian and a Czech. Life was beautiful at the Munich Olympics.

On the night of Sept. 4, 1972, the whole team went to see the play Fiddler on the Roof. At intermission the athletes were invited backstage, where a joyous team picture was taken. Alon was asleep at 4:30 a.m. when a big bang and a lot of shouting snapped him straight up in bed.

"What's that?" asked his 17-year-old roommate, fencer Yehuda Weisenstein.

"Probably some other team celebrating," Alon said. "Go back to sleep."

Twenty minutes later, machine-gun fire next door pierced the wall over Alon's bed. Three of his teammates--two shooters and a wrestler--burst into the room, ashen-faced.

Alon ran to the window in the front bedroom. Below, a man in a white hat was talking to two policemen. "We have killed two already," white hat said. "We have nine more inside. Get the Israeli government on the phone, or we kill everybody." Lying on the pavement, bleeding to death, was the wrestling coach, Moshe Weinberg.

Alon went back and peeked out the rear balcony door. On the balcony to the left, he could see a man with a ski mask and a machine gun. You've seen this man. He became the symbol of Black September, the Palestinian terrorist group that snuck into the Israeli compound in the Olympic Village and stormed buildings 1 and 3. But not 2. For whatever reason, the attackers had passed over number 2.

"What are we going to do?" Weisenstein whispered to Alon.

The shooters from the team had guns and would fire bullets into the head of white hat, then they'd run for it, Alon and his teammates decided. But what would that do but alert the other terrorists that they had missed a building?

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