Op-Ed by U.S. Ambassador Robert F. Godec on the
20th Commemoration of the August 7th U.S. Embassy Bombings
Twenty years ago, evil showed its terrible face in Kenya and in Tanzania. In the middle of a busy Friday morning, al-Qa’ida terrorists exploded bombs outside the U.S. Embassies here in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam. Their horrific attack killed close to 250 people, and injured nearly 5,000. In an awful moment, the lives of thousands changed forever, as did the lives of their families and friends. We remember and mourn those who were killed, and we stand with all who were injured or touched by this brutal attack.
My wife Lori and I were in Kenya and assigned to the U.S. Embassy when the bomb blast occurred. We saw personally the trauma and tragedy of that day and its aftermath. But we also saw the heroism, compassion, and selflessness of the Embassy staff, Kenyan citizens, and friends from countries around the world.
Our Embassy staff and many Kenyans who were nearby that tragic morning responded to the attack with immense personal courage. They worked tirelessly, taking great risks, to save lives and help the injured. Side by side, they rescued those who needed help, they retrieved the dead, and they began the process of recovery and rebuilding.
We also saw the bravery of Kenyan emergency and medical personnel and the special teams who rushed from the United States and other countries to assist. As Ambassador, I would like to express my deep, personal appreciation, and that of the United States, for the courage of so many that day. In the moments and days that followed the blast, their heroism stands in tribute to compassion and all that is best in humanity. I want to thank, as well, all those who helped build and maintain the powerful and poignant memorial at the site of the attack. We will always remember.
As we reflect on the attack, we know that al-Qai’da had not one but three terrible goals. Their immediate purpose was to kill and destroy, but they had more in mind. They sought to divide us, to divide friends, to divide Kenya and the United States. And, they sought to undermine the values we hold dear, to destroy civilization itself and to replace it with a nightmare of oppression.
Tragically, in the years since the bombing, al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups have continued their savage assault on humanity. In far too many places across the world, they have pursued their attacks. From New York, to Paris, to Bali, to Garissa, to the mall at Westgate, the terrorists have followed their murderous agenda.
But on the twentieth anniversary of the attacks here in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam, we say clearly and loudly that although we have suffered, we are not beaten. We will never let those who traffic in death and destruction defeat us. While the terrorists sought to sow fear and division, they failed. Instead, we have risen with an even stronger determination to stand together for freedom, for justice, and for peace.
On this somber occasion, as we pause to remember those we have lost, I ask that we also reflect on what binds us together. For today, we are united as Kenyans and Americans. We are united as people. And, even as we mourn, we resolve once again to remain true to our shared values, to our unwavering friendship, and to our shared humanity. We resolve to move forward, hand in hand. We resolve to build a better, brighter future for ourselves, for our children, and for people across the world.