Edith Bartley isn't impressed by the ceremony the State Department has planned to honor her father, brother and other victims of the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania a year ago.
Bartley, 26, who boarded a plane yesterday for Nairobi, will skip the ceremony Saturday in the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department, which will feature U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and the Youth Foundry Choir.
"It's all show, and has nothing to do with addressing the families' needs," Bartley said yesterday before leaving with her mother for a memorial ceremony in Kenya.
Bartley and some other relatives of Americans who died in the terrorist blasts on Aug. 7, 1998, complain that the State Department has turned a cold shoulder to families struggling to resettle, deal with financial strains and cope with grief. Just obtaining autopsy reports took months.
She said that her father, Julian, who served 27 years in the Foreign Service and was consul general in Kenya, "would be appalled to know how his family had been treated."
Bartley noted that the State Department failed to arrange for anyone to accompany her mother on her long flight home. It only wanted to pay for two nights in a hotel in Washington. It did not provide a rental car. And it did not provide enough help in moving belongings back to the United States, she said.
Last September, when Clinton administration officials attended a memorial service at the National Cathedral, none of the senior officials spoke to the families, Bartley added.
State Department officials acknowledge that they did not respond well to the tragedy for the families. "After a tragedy like this there is always more that one could have done to assist the families who have suffered so much," said Patrick Kennedy, assistant secretary of state for administration. "No one at the department feels we did a perfect job."
Kennedy noted that the department did provide transportation to the service that took place when the bodies returned and that Albright met with the families there. He also said the department compensated victims' families according to federal laws.
But unhappiness among the families led to a meeting in early May with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Kennedy said that was when he first learned families were still waiting for autopsy reports, which were provided that week.
The department is setting up an office to deal with the families of employees killed in the line of duty.
Some of the victims' families have expressed anger that the State Department failed to protect the embassy even though the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, had repeatedly requested improvements in security.
Kennedy responded that "no one was taking Ambassador Bushnell's concerns lightly." He noted that the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were just two of more than 200 embassies and consulates that did not--and still do not--meet security standards.
Not every family of the victims shares Bartley's anger. Douglas Klaucke lost his wife, Louise. Both were working in Kenya for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When he returned to Atlanta, a friend lent him a house, and hundreds came to a service at an Emory University chapel.
"I wish the government had done more," said Klaucke. "But what I really want is what the government can't give, which is to have my wife back."