Families, friends of Khobar Towers victims gather for remembrance ceremony

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency
Fifteen years since the terrorist attack in which a truck bomb exploded at Khobar Towers, killing 19 Airmen and wounding hundreds of other Americans, the victims' friends, families and other guests paid tribute to them in a remembrance ceremony here June 25.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley expressed sympathy and gratitude to the impacted families, vowing never to forget the Airmen who perished during the attack that destroyed an entire wall of the high-rise apartment building where they were billeted in Dharan, Saudi Arabia.

"Here at Arlington, we're surrounded by generations of patriots who've generously served our country and stepped up in pursuit of freedom," Secretary Donley said. "The 19 Airmen whose lives were stolen that day are among the kindred spirits who embody selflessness."

The housing complex was a temporary home for Airmen assigned to nearby Dharan Airbase. Their mission, Operation Southern Watch, helped to enforce the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq.

Retired Master Sgt. Eric Ziegler, a Khobar Towers survivor, recalled tinkering with a troublesome alarm clock that had broken earlier in the week on the evening of the bombing.

He said he initially thought the device might have been responsible for causing a power surge and blowing a fuse in the building.

"My first thought was, 'man, I'm in so much trouble; I've just shorted all the lights out,'" he said.

But Sergeant Ziegler said he quickly learned that the darkness in the building was the result of something far more serious.

"I didn't hear or see anything at the time of the blast; all I knew for certain was that the wall hit me," he said. "I picked myself up; I could see the night sky and suddenly realized I couldn't possibly have caused this level of damage."

Disoriented and injured, Sergeant Ziegler managed to evacuate the embers, ash and twisted metal, but the memories of that day and his fallen friends, he'll forever carry, he said.

Secretary Donley told ceremony attendees that they do not grieve alone and that their loved ones' legacies will live on.

"While there is nothing we can do to spare you the pain of your loss, as Americans, we do share a portion of your grief," Secretary Donley said. "We will not forget our fallen Airmen and their great sacrifice. We also express our thanks and enduring gratitude, to you, the family members left behind."