They emerged from the church in a profusion of white lace and gold braid. All four of them. Two brides, two grooms, two twins. One hell of a wedding.
Wednesday Sibylla Meine and her brother, Curd Ju rgen Meine, became the first set of boy-girl twins to graduate from West Point. Today was their wedding day.
Hold on. There's more. Curd, who is known as C.J., married his high school sweetheart, Sheryl Anderson, an Army brat whose father was a master sergeant at West Point. Sibylla married Brian Lee, who is known as B.J., a 1984 West Point graduate. And the twins' father is career Army.
Outside Holy Trinity Church overlooking the Hudson River, photographers jockeyed for position. "Mine's coming out first!" one shouted, pushing his way into position.
"Arch sabers!" a voice barked. B.J. and Sibylla kissed under the glistening silver blades.
Then it was C.J. and Sheryl's turn. The sabers were passed to six new bearers and the command was heard again: "Arch sabers!"
As they passed through, a young lieutenant whacked Sheryl on the behind with the broadside of his sword, as tradition commands. "Welcome to the Army, Mrs. Meine!" he called.
No one had dared to whack the new Mrs. Lee. "Because she'd probably whack back, ma'am," explained one of her saber bearers, Frank Doyle.
This was a marriage: of regular Army and West Point, of love and pageantry, of youth and tradition, of military precision and just plain schmaltz. Men in uniform. Women in uniform! The romance of the '80s!
"We were born together, graduated together and married together," Sibylla said. "I don't think we've had time to think about the incredible romance of it all. It's kind of a lot in one week."
The day before the wedding, graduation day, was perfect. Shoes were never shinier, pleats never crisper, the sky never bluer. One by one, the cadets of the class of 1985 were called forth to accept diplomas, which they brandished like sabers. Brother and sister faced each other on the podium, mirror images in their gray swallowtail jackets with the gleaming gold buttons and dashing burgundy sashes.
She is one-half-inch taller. He is one-half-hour older. "Because they couldn't find her leg," he said.
"They thought he was dead because he was bruised and battered," she said. "I came out looking like a pink pig. Mom says I was always stealing his food away."
"She's stubborn and she has a big mouth, but underneath she's emotional," he said.
"I'm the more aggressive of the two," she said. "He's shy. But he's smarter, too."
He graduated in the top 20 percent of the class. She made dean's list this semester.
When their names were called, and the diplomas were finally in their white gloved hands, they broke ranks for just an instant. C.J. extended his hand. Sibylla grabbed his neck. "You hugged me?" C.J. said. "I hugged you. I waited for you, didn't I?"
Superintendent Lt. Gen. Willard W. Scott Jr. administered the oath of office, concluding, "I now pronounce you second lieutenant," commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. "When I pronounced you second lieutenant, it almost sounded like something else," he said when the applause subsided. "Some of you may do that shortly. There are similarities. This is a dedication you're about. It's time you be about leave and marriage and all those good things."
The class of 1985 had graduated. For an instant the cloudless sky was tinged with white as 1,010 patent-leather-peaked caps filled the air. Later, sometime after the caps came down, parents toasted their second lieutenants amid green boughs and shocking pink azaleas. The colors were as vivid as the emotions.
"This is the proudest moment of an immigrant grandmother's life," said Klara Meine, who was born in Hanover, West Germany, 67 years ago. "We escaped from the Russian zone in '47. So we had to be tough. I never thought I'd see the day to witness this."
In the Cadets' chapel, Fred and Rita Meine stood at their children's shoulders and pinned their lieutenants' bars on the lapels of their new green uniforms.
"They always say, 'We live for the day when our father has to salute us,' " Klara Meine said. "He's not in rank an actual officer. A warrant officer is a specialist. He can't command even a soldier. Rankwise the kids are now above him."
Fred Meine was 18 when he left home to join the Army. You had to have connections to get into West Point then. He worked his way through the ranks to become a chief warrant officer 4 in the Army's criminal investigation division. He is now stationed in West Germany, where the twins were born 21 years ago.
From the beginning, he nurtured the dream of West Point in his children's hearts. He taught them that the military life is the good life. He remembers times during the Vietnam war when he felt self-conscious wearing his uniform. His children don't.
"I didn't learn until later that the Vietnam era was looked down on," Sibylla said.
"All I've ever seen was old John Wayne movies and gee whiz, soldiers have nice uniforms," C.J. said.
"When they were tiny, C.J. admired his father so," Rita said. "His father was military police. He said, 'I'll be military police, too.' Well, Sibylla was always the stronger one in the head."
"Stubborn," said Jackie, the youngest daughter, supplying the idiom.
Her mother nodded. "She said, 'If you can do it, I can do it too.' Typical redhead. C.J. said, 'Ha, ha, you can't. They don't accept girls.' She said, 'Just wait.' "
"I said, 'I'll sit on the stairs and knock on the doors until they let me in,' " Sibylla said.
She was one of 107 women graduates Wednesday in West Point's sixth coeducational class. She is going into the military police. Her brother is going into aviation.
They were in high school when their father realized they were serious about the military academy. Fred Meine accepted a transfer to West Point, even though he would have preferred Alaska, so his children could get to know the post.
They graduated from O'Neill High, right outside the gates, where C.J. met Sheryl at the end of 10th grade. "I didn't like him until I saw him play soccer," she said.
They got engaged two years ago. Sheryl had been planning their wedding for quite some time.
Then last fall, Sibylla decided to get married, too. Their parents couldn't make two trips to the States. And churches are hard to come by at West Point the week after graduation. (Cadets aren't allowed to be married.) "Plebes reserve churches even if they're not getting married just so they'll have a spot," C.J. said.
"Sheryl called me and asked if we would like to get married with them," Sibylla said. "I said, 'It's nice of you, but if we do, it's going to take something away from you.' She said, 'We talked about it and it's okay.' "
"Was it hard?" C.J. said. "Yeah, I guess. For the girl it's a big deal to be the prettiest one on her wedding day and to be up there all alone."
"It had its bumps," Sibylla said. "I'd be less than honest if I said that. For four years it was all hers. Then I came along. There were certain things she wanted and I didn't. I felt stupid saying, 'I don't like it.' But we ironed everything out."
How long should the open bar stay open? Two hours or five? What color should the bridesmaids wear? Peach or lavender? What kind of flowers should they carry? Silk or fresh?
"The rehearsal was a zoo," B.J. said.
Even the priest was nervous. "This is the first time I've ever done a double wedding," The Rev. Tubridy said as the ceremony began.
The grooms were resplendent in their dress blues and nervous smiles. The brides blushed, of course, and wore lots of white. "I'm proud of my uniform, but I'm not going to get married in it," Sibylla said.
Nobody forgot his or her lines. Nobody noticed that the brides carried different flowers. Nobody could say who was prettier.
"Well, they're all married," Tubridy said when the ceremonies were over. "They didn't make any mistakes and I didn't make any mistakes. Let's all congratulate them."
They got a standing ovation.