WASHINGTON D.C., April 18, 2007— -- Beirut was arguably the most dangerous city in the world. Car bombs inside the city were common, and extremist elements plotted in the nearby Bekaa Valley.
It was exactly 25 years ago today that a bomber detonated 2,000 lbs. of explosives in front of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon and killed more than 60 people, including 17 Americans. Forty-four people inside the embassy survived.
Among them was the man who leads the U.S. Embassy in what is now considered the most dangerous place for American diplomats: Baghdad. Ambassador Ryan Crocker was serving as a political officer in Beirut and survived the blast.
It was at the time the deadliest terror attack on Americans abroad; six months later another bomber killed 241 in an attack on the U.S. Marine barracks near the Beirut airport.
Today many of the survivors of the 1983 embassy bombing and the families of the victims gathered at the State Department to remember those who died.
The U.S. Ambassador at the time, Robert Dillon, spoke at the ceremony and described being pulled from the rubble by his deputy and secretary moments after the blast. Once they descended the stairs of the building, they discovered the full extent of the damage.
Finding wounded colleagues just below his office gave way, on the lower floors, to the sight of others who died in the attack. As Dillon concluded his remarks his voice cracked, and he struggled through his final sentences.
While Dillon escaped with only minor injuries, many were not so lucky, including aides waiting for him near the entrance where the explosion occurred, employees in the cafeteria, the CIA's entire Middle East team, an American journalist, several American servicemen and numerous Lebanese civilians who were either inside the embassy to apply for a visa or simply passing by the building.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who opened the ceremony, called the survivors "a source of hope" coming out of the tragedy and said the current situation in Lebanon, where pro-democracy politicians are killed in the streets, is "unacceptable to the U.S."