Clinton To Meet Bomb Victims Plane
Aug. 13, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ It's a painful task for a president: welcoming home the bodies of Americans killed overseas.
President Clinton, who in six years as head of the nation has presided over several solemn ceremonies for American victims of terrorism abroad and at home, was doing so again today. He was meeting an Air Force plane carrying the remains of 10 of 12 Americans killed last week in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.
``It's obviously an event that I think weighs heavily on him, but he believes it's important for him in his role as president to speak for the country,'' said Joe Lockhart, a presidential spokesman.
The State Department, meanwhile, disclosed Wednesday that the U.S. ambassador in Nairobi, Prudence Bushnell, had expressed concern last December that the Kenyan embassy wasn't adequately protected against an attack because it was surrounded by busy streets. She wanted a new embassy in a more isolated location in line with the strictest State Department guidelines.
Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering said today that Bushnell had asked for several other changes at the same time. ``We were able to take care, in effect, of the other issues. The location question, as you know, was a question of how much money we had to spend on all our embassies worldwide and whether Nairobi in particular met the priority.
``Unfortunately, of course, it didn't, because we didn't have unlimited funds to work with, and so we were unable to be responsive there,'' Pickering said on ABC's ``Good Morning America.''
The flag-draped coffins were arriving this morning at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., just outside Washington. The body of an 11th victim, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Sherry Lynn Olds, 40, was flown to Florida on Wednesday at her family's request. Another American, Jean Dalizu, 60, will be buried in Kenya, her adopted homeland where she married.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who like the president has vowed to bring to justice those responsible for the twin terrorist attacks last Friday, accompanied the diplomats, government workers and members of the military who were killed almost half a world away.
``I am bringing home very brave Americans,'' she said.
Albright on Wednesday was in Germany to visit nine Americans who were injured in the blasts at embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Besides the 12 Americans and more than 250 Africans killed, 5,000 people were injured, mostly in the Kenyan capital.
No group has claimed responsibility for the nearly simultaneous explosions, but two men detained Wednesday in Kenya ``are considered suspects,'' a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Clinton, in a meeting with senior advisers Wednesday, asked for a quick report on security weaknesses at embassies worldwide so he can ask Congress for money for upgrades and to rebuild posts in Kenya and Tanzania. Key members of Congress promised to cooperate.
The devastating explosions killed young and old alike.
Consul General Julian Bartley, 55, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., boasted three decades of government service in several countries and was working toward an ambassadorship.
Bartley's 20-year-old son, Jay, hoped to follow in his father's footsteps, but instead died at his side. The university student had taken a summer job at the embassy.
Marine Sgt. Jesse Aliganga, 21, of Tallahassee, Fla., had just signed a 30-month extension of his three-year service to become a security guard.
``They told me how wonderful my son was and that he was a good soldier. I know he was,'' said Clara Aliganga, who was given her son's Purple Heart at a memorial service Wednesday at Quantico, Va.
Army Sgt. Kenneth Hobson II, 27, of Springfield, Mo., leaves a widow, Debbie, and a daughter, Meghan, 2.
``We will take his ashes to California's Big Sur where we fell in love with each other and California,'' Debbie Hobson said.
The Kenyan job was to be the last overseas assignment for Molly Huckaby Hardy, 51, of Valdosta, Ga. She was to go home next month.
Prabhi Kavaler, 45, born in Amritsar, India, was described as a dedicated worker for the general services office.
Arlene Kirk, 50, of South Bend, Ind., had just returned to work after a six-week U.S. vacation with her family and was thinking of moving back to America after half her life working in Africa. A fiscal officer for the Air Force, Kirk and her husband, Robert, served together in the Peace Corps in South Africa in 1970 and never looked back.
Louise Martin, 45, of Atlanta also left behind her workmate husband, Douglas Klaucke, of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Michelle O'Connor, 36, who worked for the General Services Administration, will be buried in Polo., Ill, where her husband, Jim, and their three daughters will settle.
Tom Shah, a 38-year-old Chicago native and political officer, was planning to attend his 20th high school reunion in Cincinnati this fall. Now, his former classmates will hold a memorial service at the same time.