Byline: Stevenson Swanson
HAMBURG, Germany _ The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks caused a special brand of remorse for most residents of Germany's second-largest city when investigators revealed that the hijackings were planned here.
For one Hamburg couple, the remorse remains acutely personal.
As photographs of the 19 hijackers were beamed around the world, the couple recognized the man with the impassive stare as their former houseguest, Mohamed Atta, who piloted the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.
The couple's anguish over their efforts to bring Atta to Hamburg has been so severe that the woman sought psychological counseling, and even now, a year and a half later, they still agonize over the consequences of their kindness.
This was the city where Atta forged his fateful link with al-Qaeda.
Investigators on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean consider Atta the leader of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, which produced three of the four pilots who crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
It is possible that if he had not moved here, Sept. 11 would remain just another date on the calendar.