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U.S. Mission to Kenya Commemorates August 7 Embassy Bombing

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec and the U.S. embassy community honored the victims of the August 7, 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi with in a ceremony today.  Before laying a wreath at the memorial obelisk on the Embassy grounds, the U.S. marines presented colors, the Ambassador and a Kenyan staff member of the Embassy shared thoughts on the tragedy and its meaning for Kenyans and Americans, and the hundreds of staff members of the Embassy observed a moment of silence in remembrance of those killed and injured.

Ambassador Godec shared these remarks:

Welcome.  Thank you for attending this ceremony of Commemoration.  The seventh of August is a sad day for all of us.  It is a day we will never forget.  A day we lost colleagues, friends, and family members to an evil, infamous act of terror… the attack on the US Embassy here in Nairobi.

Some of you were at the Embassy on that day.  Some of you were nearby.   Others, regardless of where you were, heard of the attack and were shocked by it.  For all of us, wherever we were and whatever we were doing, the moments of that day are etched in our minds, as indeed they are etched in history.

Today, we remember and honor all who died or were injured.  We remember, too, their family, friends, and colleagues.  To everyone who suffered that day: you are in our hearts, minds, and prayers.

On behalf of the US government and the American people, you have our deepest sympathy and our admiration for the courage and strength you have shown over the years.

As we remember the sadness of that day, we recall also the acts of heroism, compassion, and caring.  So many people assisted the injured, comforted the victims or retrieved the bodies of those who had died.

Many did so at the risk of their own lives.  Winston Churchill once said:   “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word:  freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

Fifteen years ago, so many of the survivors lived the meaning of these words and their actions then remind us now of what is best in humanity.  As we reflect back on the attack, we know the terrorists had not one but two awful goals.

The first, their short-term objective, was simply to kill and destroy.  The second, their long-term purpose, was to divide us, to divide colleagues and friends, to divide Kenya and the United States.

On this solemn occasion, the fifteenth anniversary of the attack, I can say without hesitation that although we have suffered, we have not been defeated.

We have not been divided.  We are more determined than ever to remain together, to stay true to our values, and to preserve what we hold dear.  For our shared values – freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, and hope – are strong and true.  We will not be defeated by people who believe in death, destruction, and misery.

Today, we are united, Americans and Kenyans.  We are brought together by remembrance.  But on this somber day, when we pause to reflect on those who suffered or were killed, I ask that we also reflect on what binds us together:  our shared values and our commitment to a better, brighter future.

Please join me in observing a moment of silence.

Remarks by George Mimba.

Your Excellency, Ambassador Bob Godec, Deputy Chief of Mission, Management, family members present today, U.S. Kenya Mission Staff, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of August 7.  Fifteen years? It’s unbelievable! And why is that? Because when it happened fifteen years ago, we, the survivors were encouraged to pick up what remained of our lives and move on.  And we did just that; we pieced together what was left of us to start a new life.  Yes we did it.  We bravely showed the whole world that the terrorists had failed; that if their intention was to create fear in us and animosity between the two nations, then they failed.  However, I must confess that they did succeed in one area: the pains, the scars and anger shall forever live with us.  Why do I say so?  Fifteen years down the road, the memories of 1998 August 7th bombing is till as fresh as if it happened yesterday.  I can still see clearly my colleagues struggle under collapsed walls and file cabinets; I can still hear cries of my colleagues in the choking smoke; I can still feel bodies of those who could not make it; cries of college students buried under collapsed Ufundi house; bloody streets of Nairobi; destroyed school bus with bodies of young innocent children; yes it is still as fresh as if it happened yesterday.  I wish somebody could assure me that these feelings will go away permanently someday. I wish somebody could permanently erase August 7, 1998 from my memory.

How can one measure the loss of a husband, wife, sister, brother, son or daughter? How do you measure the pain of the disabled survivor living each day with physical and mental injuries? What was God’s plan when He allowed evil men acting falsely in His name to cause so much pain and human suffering? Friends, we have too many questions and not enough answers.

This Anniversary means many things to the survivors.  To some of us it represents emptiness within us; endless pains that we contend with every day; anger and un-forgiveness; but most of all it represents the courage of the Embassy employees, families, and the Kenyan people to stand for peace and goodwill in the face of terrible dangers and loss.

This morning together with some of my fellows survivors, I had the privilege to accompany Ambassador to the August 7th Memorial Park downtown.  Standing on what used to be our second home and painfully going through names of my former colleagues beautifully written on the memorial wall, I did not think I would to have the courage to address you.  However, I promised my late colleagues that I would do it for them; that I would do it for their families and friends.  I promised them that I would continue appealing to the world to be kind and loving, for God is Love.

Nairobi has grown over the years and continues to grow.  We continue to receive new families both Americans and FSNs, and that is a good thing.  But even as we focus on this growth and pressure that comes with it, let us remember that among us are wounded men and women who look up to us for support and understanding as they continue serving the mission.  They do not need your sympathy but understanding.  When they are low and not at their very best please understand.  When they appear weak and discouraged, please stretch your loving and caring hand, lift them up and whisper a word of encouragement, for they were told fifteen years ago that they shall live with these feelings, pains and the effects until the end.

This morning, ladies and gentlemen, instead of turning inward with grief, let us honor those we lost by telling terrorists that they will not change who we are.  Let us tell them that we shall not coil up in fear; that with our losses we become even stronger. To this end I would like to thank the United States of America, through the Department of Justice, the FBI and other relevant authorities for their consistency and unwavering pursuit for justice that has seen many of these terrorists brought to book. Their efforts have given me hope that tomorrow my wife, children, family and friends will be safe.

Thank you and God bless you.