They called themselves the "Champagne Evacuees," whisked at dawn Friday in chartered jets from the dusty Sudanese capital of Khartoum to luxury hotels in Nairobi, Kenya, a weekend safari, and finally back to the United States to a stay in the Hyatt Regency Bethesda.
The 195 Americans or foreign nationals working for the United States government, the military or U.S. corporations arrived here Tuesday night and were taken to the Hyatt -- at government expense of $65 a room. Along with an additional 100 Americans pulled out of Sudan who opted to stay in East Africa or traveled to Europe, the families had been evacuated amid fears of violent retaliation for U.S. air raids on Libya, which borders Sudan.
Those fears intensified after a U.S. Embassy communications specialist was shot in the head on April 15 and critically injured.
In addition, the United Nations is evacuating its American employes and the U.S. Embassy has advised private relief groups to move their American workers. The Americans brought out by the government were all nonessential employes and American dependents. The embassy is still fully staffed, according to State Department officials.
"The kids were thinking the evacuation was a big adventure, right out of cartoonsville," said Ron Isaacson, 38, an electrical engineer doing contract work for the Agency for International Development. Isaacson said he and his wife, Julie, took their two children on a safari.
Shadowing the high spirits of many of the families milling in the elegant lobby of the Bethesda hotel yesterday was a daunting new aspect of life for Americans overseas: the increased threat of terrorist attacks.
The number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks overseas has increased steadily since 1982, said State Department spokesman Joseph Reap. According to government statistics, 25 Americans died in 28 terrorist attacks overseas in 1985; 16 died in 16 attacks in 1984.
The 1983 bombing of the Beirut Marine barracks inflated that year's figures, Reap said, leaving 266 Americans dead in 12 attacks. In 1982, nine Americans -- eight private citizens and one military person -- died in 11 terrorist attacks.
This year, six Americans -- four civilians, one government worker and one military person -- have died in three attacks overseas, according to State Department figures.
Isaacson praised the U.S. air raid last week on Libya. "I'm glad they did it, but I would've been much happier if I were sitting in his hometown of Chehalis Wash. instead of in Khartoum," he said. "It's time the U.S. showed some aggression in other than diplomatic circles."
For Janet Bauman, a 29-year-old Canadian who is married to an AID officer, flying from Khartoum meant leaving what had been a pleasant home for the last six years. Her husband Morley, 31, general services officer for AID in Khartoum, stayed behind to continue his work.
Yesterday, her voice was measured as she quieted her 21-month-old son Andrew and spoke of her confidence -- and her hope -- that her husband will join the family soon in Ontario.
"I have a little bit of anxiety, although I trust the people in authority that as soon as possible, they'll send him out," Bauman said. "We've spent six years -- a large part of our married life -- in Sudan, so a big part of my heart is there."