D.C. Man Killed in Suicide Attack at Hotel
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
A 45-year-old District man who described his life in Afghanistan as a series of moves "from Green Zone to Green Zone" was among those killed Monday in a suicide bombing and shooting attack at Kabul's most popular luxury hotel, where he had gone to work out in the gym, friends and business associates said yesterday.
Thor David Hesla, who had been living in Kabul since October and working for McLean-based BearingPoint, was the only American killed in the attack, one of the most brazen and well-coordinated assaults in the Afghan capital in years. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
"He had just joined the gym at the hotel," said Howard Yellen, one of Hesla's closest friends, who had spoken to him by phone the night before the attack. "His life was very restricted there, basically just the house, the office, and a couple places they could go. He told me he was just trying to get out more, do something to break the monotony."
Several assailants walked into the Serena Hotel, Afghanistan's only five-star hotel, about 6 p.m., throwing grenades and firing assault rifles. One of the gunmen blew himself up. At least eight people were killed, including a Norwegian journalist.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at the United Nations that the intended target was the Norwegian foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, who was at the hotel for meetings but was not hurt. The hotel is popular with diplomats and aid workers in Afghanistan.
Hesla, who lived on Capitol Hill, had lived in the District since the early 1990s. He was well known in political circles, having worked on several campaigns, including former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley's unsuccessful 2000 bid for president.
He also worked as a consultant arranging transportation logistics for large-scale events, such as the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the Goodwill Games, Yellen said. "He loved to eat and drink and spend time with people," Yellen said. "He had the kind of joie de vivre that everyone aspires to."
Yellen said Hesla told him he lived in a corporate villa in a heavily patrolled part of Kabul that is home to foreign embassies. He said he always traveled with an escort.
" 'Think of my life as a series of moves from Green Zone to Green Zone,' " Yellen said his friend told him during an hour-long conversation the day before the attack.
Hesla, who was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, worked in communications and public relations in Kabul, a BearingPoint official said. He joined the company full time in October in Afghanistan, the official said.
Hesla, who grew up in Atlanta, graduated from Emory University in 1984, said a family friend who answered the phone at his father's Atlanta home.
Yellen said Hesla considered the District "his adopted home."
"He was a casualty of the war on terrorism," Yellen said. "He wasn't out there with a rifle, but he was trying to help the countries that are the nexus of the problem we have now."