Survivor of the 1998 US Embassy Bombing, Nairobi, Kenya
YOU can fight terrorism and help Americans who suffer from it.
See Bills in Congress.
I worked for the US Commerce Department Foreign Commercial Service in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where I lived with my husband Don. On August 6th I completed my 30 day temporary duty at the Nairobi, Kenya US Embassy where I was assisting the Commercial Office in a planned move to a new location.
I learned that The Secretary of Commerce would be visiting Nairobi soon and I was asked to extend my stay to assist in preparing for the visit. I said "sure" as I was enjoying my work there as well as my off-duty time sightseeing in the beautiful countryside.
The next morning, at about 10:30 Moses, the driver, and I were in our office when we heard two loud pops. Moses jumped up on the air conditioner unit to get a better look out of the high transom windows.
Much later, as I slowly awakened, I realized that there must have a bomb. I was lying flat on my back like a large upturned sea turtle. My legs, Arms and head were free but my torso was pinned down by something. I tried to move but could not. My first thought was that I did not hurt anywhere, " Im okay", I thought to myself. I removed something from my mouth and heard water trickling. "Oh please God dont let me drown, I must stay calm, do not panic." I began saying over and over, "God give me strength, God give me strength!" I have to let them know I am here so they can get me out. I started waving my right arm and saying, "Im over here! Please, Im over here."
Shortly thereafter I heard movement and knew help was coming. Someone pulled my injured left arm and I screamed. I felt hands lifting me out of the debris and remember being placed on a stretcher. I could not see anything, darkness completely engulfing me. At this point I was bargaining with God to let me have at least one eye. "I could get by with one eye. That would be OK. Just please dont let me be blind!" I could feel my diminutive Kenyan rescuers struggling with my weight. I told them "Im sorry Im so heavy, Im sorry Im so heavy."
The next thing I remembered was moving quickly through the crowded, bumpy streets. I was taken to the Nairobi Medical Clinic where I heard someone say "this is an American from the Embassy." They were told to take me to the Nairobi Hospital. I felt movement as my stretcher was put into another vehicle. Some time later I heard voices that I recognized. I thought, "Thank God I will be okay." The Embassy nurse came and told me they would take care of me. The Embassy had been bombed and many were injured.
Then the Embassy doctor came, then the Ambassador and my friend Susan. Susans voice was very calm and she said soothing words which made me feel safer and more confident. Another person came and held my hand. I remember I did not want her to leave me. I was so afraid. "Please dont leave me, please." I remember telling Susan the combination of the safe in my hotel room and to please call my husband and tell him where I am.
The next thing I remember I am in a room that is becoming dimmer until it is almost gray. I see three men coming in my direction. They seemed familiar but I couldn't identify them. Then the room starts getting brighter and brighter, it is white and very bright. I started to feel safe and thought, "Okay if this is how it feels to die I can do this."
Then as I looked around I saw our son John. He was standing about eight feet from me. He was Looking down at me with a slight smile on his face. I knew this was Heaven because John didn't have a mustache. The Funeral parlor had shaved it off. He extended his hand to me and I lifted my left arm in its sling so that I could almost touch his hand. But just before I touched him I was sucked away from John and that beautiful place.
It all happened so quickly. But I immediately knew in my heart and soul that I was not going to die and God had shown me that John was with Him. All I had to do was to be patient and let them take care of me. I remember accepting that but asked again, "please God, let me have at least one eye, I can live with that". And so began my journey to recovery...
Only three people who were in the back of the Embassy survived. Ellen and Tobias, both
in the same office, were two of those three. The left photograph is of the rear of the Embassy, near
where the bomb went off. The other two are the remains of that office, just on the other side of that wall.
Thank God it did not crumble in the blast.
Ellen was standing near the center of the room in the middle photograph at the time of the blast.
The debris is 2-3 feet deep where she stood. Note destroyed concrete wall, lower right in
|This photograph was taken in April of 1999, shortly before Ellen attended The
National Federation of the Blind training center at Ruston, LA. The numerous dark spots
on her face were from debris "tattooing." Most of these are now gone due to several
More Photographs of Ellen
Photographs of Ellen taken when she arrived at Walter Reed Hospital. I suggest you do
NOT look at them if you have a weak stomach!
After the bombing I next saw Ellen at the Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. Ellens co-workers at
the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia moved mountains to get me ticketed on the first available flight.
She arrived Sunday morning, 9 August, with 12 wounded Kenyans and 9 other Americans. I wasnt prepared for
what I saw. Before I left Saudi Arabia I was told that she "had facial and abdominal lacerations and a
broken arm", obviously by a person that had not seen her. "If you looked at her intense picture just
imagine: In that picture she looked a LOT better than when I first saw her. Really!
Ellen was the first to be medically evacuated to the Walter Reed Army Medical in Washington, DC. A US Air Force C-141 transported the two of us, a doctor and a nurse. Other than the crew of 6 we were the only ones aboard this gigantic aircraft that can carry over 90,000 pounds of troops and cargo.
Six more injured Americans were medically evacuated to Walter Reed the following Wednesday. They were Sgt. Daniel Briehl of the Marines, Clyde Hirn, Gary Lonnquist, Frank Pressley, Lydia Sparks and Gary Spears. The seventh, Carol Hawley, was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. One patient, David Robertson, left for a hospital in Phoenix on a commercial flight on Tuesday.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright flew home with the bodies of 10 of the 12 Americans killed in the bombing. Her words to the press were "I am bringing home 10 very brave Americans." When she visited Walter Reed several days later she left Ellens room with tears in her eyes.
Of those evacuated to Walter Reed Ellen and Frank Pressley were the most severely injured. The other patients were released for recuperation and out-patient care after a couple of weeks and in most cases returned to work within a few months. I do not mean to minimize the extent of their injuries. They were all severely traumatized both physically and mentally. Most continued treatment in medical facilities in their US home towns so they could be near family and friends. All will continue to suffer physical problems and mental anguish for the rest of their lives.
After about a month as an inpatient both Ellen and Frank were released to outpatient status and we each moved into the Molonge House Hotel on the grounds of Walter Reed. Both Ellen and Frank typically had several appointments at the hospital each day so we saw each other frequently. I knew Frank suffered extensive trauma to his left shoulder and his jaw and I saw that he was in a lot of pain. However, even though we got to know each other quite well, and still exchange EMail and phone calls occasionally I didnt really know the true extent of his injuries until I read his account in a gut-wrenching Washington Post Article:
Please use your browser "Back Button" to return here after each external link!The following day Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the Senate Budget Committee during which he said, in part:
The Washington Post - February 12, 2002: Working Wounded
"And I am pleased, therefore, this morning to have the opportunity to testify in support of President Bushs budget request for the Department for 2003, because it is this support that you have given us in 2002, and that Im here to defend in 2003, that keeps these men and women motivated, equipped, trained, prepared, ready to do the job that the nation asks of them. And they go into harms way every day just as much as any one of the men and women of our Armed Forces. They take risks, and sometimes pay with their lives, pay with injuries, as we saw in our newspaper this morning, the story of the gentleman who was seriously injured in the embassy bombing a few years ago, and how he is coming back, and how we have to do a better job of taking care of people such as that brave soldier of the State Department."
This or course caused tremendous pressure on both the US Department of State and Department of Labor to do something for Frank. The follow-up in the Washington Post was less than two weeks later:
On October 18, 2001 Ellen was evaluated by a doctor specified by the Department of Labor Office of Workers Compensation Program (OWCP). His estimate of disability was 87% "whole-body." We have yet to see how the OWCP will apply those findings. The doctor dismissed Ellen's claim for hearing loss and loss of feeling in her right thumb and fingers for some unknown reason. Can anyone imagine how difficult it is to read Braille with no sensory perception of the raised dot pattern?
One key item mentioned in the first Washington Post article is the fact that the US Government allocated an open-ended fund to provide compensation for persons injured and for families of those killed or injured in the 9/11 attack on America. However, others killed and injured by the same terrorist, on American soil (US EMbassies abroad are considered to be on American soil) are not similarly treated.
We, of course, feel that we have suffered greatly, and no less than the survivors and families of 9/11 victims. Because "only" 12 innocent Americans lost their life and "only" 10 were injured seriously enough to require evacuation in the Nairobi attack are we less deserving? The same goes for Dar Es-Saalam, the USS Cole, Al-Khobar towers and OPM-SANG (Riyadh). These are, in all cases, US Government diplomats, workers and service members. To see how YOU can help those who were injured, and the families of those who were killed, please go to Bills Before Congress. There you will see how to help them, as well as any American victims of future attacks, and fight terrorism at the same time!
God doesnt give you more than you can handle. As proof of this, when our granddaughter was 13 days old we were told that she would go to a foster home if we didnt take her. We did, and we've never been sorry.
Allie is now 9 1/2 years old and a joy to behold. She may be the reason God spared me in Nairobi. Perhaps someday Ill be able to see her beautiful smile. However, you can see it now. Take a look at Allie's Pictures! More pictures are available on our family website at www.camel-lot.com. Please take a look there too.
A Survivor of Terrorism
We started writing a book about our experiences while Ellen was still at Walter Reed. It's finally finished,
and was published on 6 April 2011. Here is a brief description of her story:
As I regained consciousness, I thought, A BOMB!
So begins the story of Ellen Bomer. The Al-Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, left Ellen (code named Miss Gloria after the attack) trapped for hours under the wreckage. When finally rescued, she emerged into a new, dark, and frightening existence. The attack left her blind. In this life-changing book, you'll experience:
The National Federation of the Blind
Ellen and I could not possibly be where we are today without the help of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). We were both scared to death of the future and usually cried ourselves to sleep every night. Then we met Harold Snider who proved to us that blindness is not the end of the world, it is only a nuisance. He threw us a lifeline when we were floundering in a sea of self-pity.
I have a lot more to write about Harold and his family, and of course the NFB. However, I am anxious to get this website on-line so I will put that off for future growth.
For now, if you know anybody that is blind, or who knows someone who is blind, please ask him or her to contact the NFB at:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
We have Affiliates in every state in the union and chapters in most major cities. You may visit the NFB WebSite. You may also want to take a look at the Alabama Affiliate WebSite, of which I am the WebMaster.
Ellen on Television
Ellen was on ABC NightLine three times.
The first two was on August 5th and 6th, 1999 in remembrance of the US Embassy bombings a year
earlier, the third was on May 19th 2000, shortly after the surgery that temporarily restored
her vision. Be sure to click on the VIDEO links, about halfway down on the right side. There
is one video link on August 5th, two on the 6th, and one on May 19th. Finally, an ABC News
piece on David Snider. The fine young man who presented Ellen to the world in his co-production
of her three ABC NightLine shows.
|ABCNEWS: Nightline: A Bombing Survivor Confronts Blindness - 5 August 1999|
|ABCNEWS: Nightline: National Federation for the Blind Convention - 6 August 1999|
|ABCNEWS: Nightline: Second Sight - 19 May 2000|
|A Photographer Making the Blind Community Seen|
I'm sure there were stories that I missed in the early months while caring for Ellen
at Walter Reed. Here are some later ones, long after the bombing. The first was on Easter
Sunday. It covered about half of the front page and all of page 8, had bigger headlines
than "Elean", and contained six large color photographs.
|Ellen's Story - Huntsville Times, Huntsville, AL - 23 April 2000|
|Blinded American Waits for Justice - Associated Press - 04 May 2001|
|4 Convicted of Bombing US Embassies - Associated Press May 30, 2001|
|Only Death Fits Crime, Jury Is Told Amid Tears Associated Press May 31, 2001|
|Blind Victim Wants Bombers Dead - Huntsville Times - 02 June 2001|
|Huntsville Woman Testified Against Terrorists - Huntsville Times - 12 August 2001|
There are many websites that mention Ellen. Here are but a few of them in no particular order.
If you are connected to the web, on-line that is, you may click on any link on these pages to
continue that path. Most should still be active.
|US State Dept Links - Embassy Bombings|
|Report of the Accountability Review Boards|
|SecCom Daley Addresses Kenya Commerce, Industry Groups|
|Remarks by SecState Albright at Walter Reed Hospital|
|Remarks by SecCom Daley - 20th Anniversary of the Commercial Service|
|Blindness alters life, but not completely|
|Albright Prepares to Escort Home the Bodies of 'Very Brave Americans'|
|U.S. Offers $2 Million Reward in Africa Attacks|
|CFC kickoff rally a success|
|1999 Convention - National Federation of the Blind|
|Tears as bombing victims speak out|
|Only Death Fits Crime, Jury Is Told Amid Tears|
|Department of Commerce News - 10 August 1998|
|Blind Victims Find Vindication in the Sound of 'Guilty'|
|Grief at Inexplicable Loss as Victims Are Buried|
|Kenyan Guard at Gate Says He Halted Bombers' Truck|
|SecCom Daley Addresses Kenyan Commerce Leaders|
|Four Men Found Guilty of U.S. Embassy Bombings|
|Taliban Won't Hand Over Bin Laden|
|Victims in Embassy Bombing Testify at Penalty Hearing|
|Preparing for the Flood|
|Lanes Chapel Prayer List|
|Requests for Safer Buildings Denied for Budget Reasons|
|As Rescuers' Final Hopes Fade, Investigators' Toil Begins|
|In a Maze of Rubble, One Remarkable Reunion|
|U.S. Offers $2 Million Reward in Africa Attacks|
|A Sad Stop in Germany Before the Last Trip Home|
|Remarks by SecCom Daley at Kenya Wreath Laying|
|A Reporter's Notebook from a Nightline Video Essay|
|SecState Remarks after visit with Bombing Victims and Families|
|Commerce, Air Force Honor Kenya Embassy Employees|
|Bomb victims arrive at Walter Reed|
|Bomer looks ahead after surviving bomb blast|
|The U.S. Commercial Service: A History|
|USecCom Aaron Speaks on Killed and Injured Commerce Personnel|
|** New Posting ** Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared|
Mario's Cyberspace Station, below, is NOT compatible with Netscape!
Mario's Cyberspace Station - The Global News Portal
|Yahoo! Links - Osama Bin Laden|
|One Man and a Global Web of Violence|
|Bin Laden Group on Terrorism List|
|Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania|
|CNN/Time Impact: Holy Terror?|
|Court TV Legal Documents|
|FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive - Usama Bin Laden|
|Ninth Suspect Charged In Embassy Bombings|
|Osama Bin Laden: Web of Terror|
|JI Media News:Qazi warns govt. against assisting anti-Osama operation|
|Islam: Saudi Bomb Suspect is Anti-USFinancier|
|No American Will Be Safe!|
|Striking Back Against Terrorists - 20 August 1998|
|Sudan and Afghanistan|
|frontline: the terrorist and the superpower|
|ABCNEWS.com : The World's Most Dangerous Terrorist|
|US Fumbles Chance to Nab Embassy Bombers|
|US Seeks Embargo On Taliban|
|Osama Bin Ladin: Wealth plus Extremism equals Terrorism|
|Yahoo! Links - Related News|
Transcript of the Terrorist Trial
|USA v. Usama bin Laden Trial Transcripts provides links to all transcripts of the terrorist trial, less 4 days. Ellen attended the trial in late April/Early May as an observer and returned to testify on May 30th during the penalty phase. Her testimony is found in USA v. Usama Bin Laden - Trial Transcript Day 56. Her name is mentioned on page 6685 line 5, and on 6686 line 23. Her testimony is on page 6793 line 1 through line 6800 line 11. Be sure to also see the testimony of the Doctor that operated on her in Germany on page 6787 line 8 through page 6789 line 3 and the discussion between Counsel for the Defense and the Judge shortly after Ellen's testimony on page 6807 line 14 through page 6811 line 22.|
Here are but a few web pages that reported on the trial. There are, for sure, many more out there.
|Arlington acquaintances shocked by man's arrest|
|Embassy bombing defendant a man of contrasts from The Dominion Post|
|Response to Terrorism ARCHIVE - USIA|
|The Dallas Morning News: National|
|The Reaction: In Kenya, Compensation Is a Priority|
|The Reverberations: South Africa Regrets Its Role in a Defendant's Extradition|
|Only Death Fits Crime, Jury Is Told Amid Tears|
|Threat Puts US Force in Bahrain on Alert|
|Trial Poked Holes in Image of bin Laden's Terrorist Group|
|No Martyrdom For Embassy Bomber|
That is a difficult question to answer. Ellen and I lived in Saudi Arabia for nine years.
I worked with Saudis every day and with practically no exception I found those that I knew
to be good people with a strong belief in God. They believe in the same God as we and the
vast majority of them abhor the violence that Islamic extremists have wrought upon us and
Notice that I did not say "Islamic Fundamentalists" as the news media is so fond of repeating. I am certainly not an Islamic scholar but I sincerely believe that there is NO fundamental "belief" that Muslims should massacre innocents. By calling them "fundamentalists" we give them credit that they do not deserve. Call them what they are, murderers, extremists or terrorist. They deserve no better recognition!
Although difficult to imagine, more and more muslims are becoming terrorists every day. Young children are trained to kill "for the glory of God." And now, as the following Washington Post article explains, if you live in England you can buy video tapes and books on how to maim and murder "right next to the Prayer Rugs" at the neighborhood Mosque.
I do not know how, or when, this war against terrorism will end. It will certainly not be a swift victory. I invite all faiths to pray for it to end quickly, with terrorism eradicated forever. It is about time that we stopped killing each other in the name of God!
Don Bomer, Ellen's husband and Webmaster, www.ellen-bomer.com