It is a tragedy for the Reuben Gray family to have lost a loving spouse and father, especially under such horrific circumstances ["Crossed Paths in Africa," Style, Dec. 23]. I recently returned along with my family from a two-year stint in Lagos, Nigeria, and we witnessed many such scenes of carnage on the roads there. The absence of emergency medical services, along with the fear that accompanies roadway accidents in much of Africa, makes for a brutal combination.
Drivers who are involved in traffic accidents in Africa often are subjected to mob justice. It is no less true if the driver at fault is an expatriate. The urban poor have a tremendous amount of pent-up anger and frustration. Consequently, our standing instructions in traffic accidents were to flee to the nearest U.S. government compound, if possible, and to call for assistance.
I found myself wondering how I would have reacted in Mr. Gray's situation, and I am disturbed to realize that I probably would have done the same thing as the other driver, Dirk Dijkerman, who left the scene.
NICHOLAS J. LEVINTOW
I was shocked to read about the untimely death of Reuben Gray, my friend and co-worker.
I was privileged to have worked with Reuben at Children's Hospital. He was a cornerstone of the clinical laboratories, where he worked every weekend, Friday night until Monday morning. He worked this difficult shift in order to devote the weekdays to the care of his family. He was a proud parent who wore a color photo button of his infant child on his lab coat.
As an African, I fully understand the unfortunate circumstance of his accident in Nairobi. My hope and prayer is that humanity will advance to a stage at which all humans are treated equally regardless of race and national origin.
Had Reuben Gray been white, the behavior of the U.S. Embassy personnel involved in the accident and its immediate aftermath might have been different. But the embassy's policy would have been the same.
In the many years that I have lived overseas, I have been amazed at the callous policy that sets "official Americans" apart from their compatriots. In 1985, I was among five Americans and one Dutchman who were stranded in Antigua after a plane accident. We had lost our passports and money. Once we were at a hotel, we were met by an embassy official, but after he determined that we were not "official Americans," he refused any assistance. The next day other officials at the U.S. Embassy voiced the same policy.
I have lived in many countries overseas, and I have learned not to rely on U.S. embassies. Instead I have relied on the French, Italian, British or Dutch embassies. In Somalia our evacuation plan involved the French, British and Italian embassies, not the U.S. Embassy. In Indonesia we registered with the Dutch Embassy, not the U.S. Embassy.
Reuben Gray and his family fell victim to an unfortunate policy of isolation -- an isolation of the one institution that is supposed to present our face and our values to people overseas.
It is not a pretty face.