I will never forget that August 7, 1998 was a Friday. In Croatia I finished a report for work. My colleague-friend Melinda and I had taken a day of leave and arrived on Croatia's beautiful, rocky, pine-scented Dalmatian coast to spend a weekend away from our human rights work with OSCE. We unlocked the door to our little hotel room. Which of us happened to turn on the TV? We saw the images of devastation and knew something dreadful had occurred. Then the little lightbox told us that what we were observing had taken place in the city centre of Nairobi, Kenya. Something told me I'd soon learn more about this tragedy. So many paths in my life eventually seem to converge. In August 1998 and in spite of my family's distinctive African ancestry, I had never yet had the opportunity to venture anywhere in Africa other than northern Africa. Back in Washington I did have an acquaintance named Julian who, like Melinda and many of my friends, shared my affinity for the world. While on loan from his State Department career, I'd met Julian Bartley when he was doing foreign policy work on the congressional staff of U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson. A few years later, ten days after my trip to the Croatian coast with Melinda, the other piece of news arrived from my friend "A" back in Washington.
Julian, his teenage son doing an internship, along with scores of others, mostly Kenyans going about their lives, had been killed in the embassy bombing in Nairobi. Julian was Counsel at the embassy. Among the American victims, he and his son were the only persons who came from the same family. Many other people, mostly Kenyans, had been injured. By September I was at National Cathedral in Washington, attending the memorial for Julian and his only son and all the victims. In October 2001 my spouse and I moved to Kenya. Many times I've passed the memorial park that marks the bomb site. In Nairobi we met new friends, including a family who'd been neighbours to Julian and his family. For a time the U.S. embassy re-located near the highway to Jomo Kenyatta Airport; then it settled in Gigiri, formerly a relatively quiet neighbourhood. Today, indeed, forever, the question and need remains, particularly regarding the well-being of the survivors of 1998, and of the widows, widowers and entire families in Kenya and Tanzania who lost loved ones on that August day.