When Terrorists Targeted My Kids

Our family experienced the effects of terrorism firsthand when in 1983 our children became the target of terrorists. Upon learning from security authorities that our family had been targeted and how the plot was foiled by our wonderful German community, we found ourselves both more vigilant in our habits and concertedly wiser in our actions. But it was in 1986 that all Americans stationed abroad became targets of terrorists worldwide. Specifically, the country of Libya, governed by Muammar Ghaddafi, targeted Americans in general and American schoolchildren in particular. I would like to speak about the dramatic effects that such terrorism can have upon our children.

I maintain that Americans need to value precious freedoms and work harder to protect our homeland. Additionally, we need to understand how the uncertainty that children experience when exposed to the real threat of terrorism can affect them even into adulthood. I think of the American children in 1986 and the exposure and fear each felt when Ghaddafi proffered verbal threats following the U.S. bombing of Libya. Libya became the target of American bombers following Ghaddafi's ordered bombing of a disco in Berlin, in which two American soldiers and a Turkish woman were killed. 

Ghaddafi had been flexing his muscles throughout the Mediterranean region, and his foray into targeted terrorism resulted in President Reagan's order for the bombing of the Libyan capital of Tripoli on April 15, 1986. In that bombing, Ghaddafi's fifteen-month-old adopted daughter was killed, and two of his sons were injured. He publicly swore revenge.

The result throughout Europe was that all Americans were put on alert, and due to Ghaddafi's broadcast of threats to American schoolchildren, all the commercial buses chartered for the transportation of Americans to various schools were immediately supplemented with armed military guards. These guards carried machine guns and other weapons to use if a bus carrying children was attacked. In Germany, each busload of schoolchildren carried at least two armed guards inside and was accompanied by two escort vehicles.

Department of Defense Schools were also subjected to phoned-in threats on a near-daily basis. In most DoD schools, children's educations were notably disrupted from April through June, when school ended. Classroom routine was recurrently derailed, as frequent phone threats during school hours meant that buildings had to be emptied and searched for bombs. Few if any schools were unaffected, and the disruption of classroom teaching resulted in fragmented education for all American students overseas during that spring of 1986.

Many families found that children developed behavioral difficulties due to the anxiety of the situation and the fears that mounted during the terrible weeks of that spring. Our own children were having nightmares of anonymous attackers and bombs exploding, so much so that we finally chose to drive them to the American schools ourselves, ever endeavoring to stay on the alert and to vary our times and routes of travel each day. Our middle child had the most vivid nightmares and would awaken crying on a nightly basis. I remember that her father and I took turns trying to comfort and reassure her. But her fears that someone wanted to hurt her or our family always seemed to speak louder than our prayers or reassurances. 

When I first heard that the schoolchildren of Beslan, Chechnya were taken captive, I remember being thrown back to the terror we witnessed firsthand in 1986. And when the event ended with the deaths of 186 schoolchildren, I wept for all the families who sent their sweet, innocent children to school that day in September in 2004, never to have them return home. And I still think of the children who survived that cruel event, and how their lives will never be the same. And I reflect, once again, on how very careless our own country remains in the most important task of protecting our most valuable asset -- our children -- and all our citizens in general. And as a member of a locally elected school board, I worry even more about an attack on the scale of Chechnya here in the United States. Can you imagine the depth of grief we would experience as a nation should something like that happen here?

I pray each and every day, asking God to protect my family and my country, and I pray for those who have sworn to defend and protect. We are dealing with the greatest depth of evil: that which seeks to destroy, for no other reason than hate. I pray that we never experience a Beslan, and I pray for those families who lost the treasure of their children forever. May we awaken here in the United States before it is too late.

Beverly Gunn is a simple Texas rancher who has a long memory. She lives with her husband in East Texas where she raises cattle and dotes on her grandchildren. She serves on her local school board because she loves children.
Our family experienced the effects of terrorism firsthand when in 1983 our children became the target of terrorists. Upon learning from security authorities that our family had been targeted and how the plot was foiled by our wonderful German community, we found ourselves both more vigilant in our habits and concertedly wiser in our actions. But it was in 1986 that all Americans stationed abroad became targets of terrorists worldwide. Specifically, the country of Libya, governed by Muammar Ghaddafi, targeted Americans in general and American schoolchildren in particular. I would like to speak about the dramatic effects that such terrorism can have upon our children.

I maintain that Americans need to value precious freedoms and work harder to protect our homeland. Additionally, we need to understand how the uncertainty that children experience when exposed to the real threat of terrorism can affect them even into adulthood. I think of the American children in 1986 and the exposure and fear each felt when Ghaddafi proffered verbal threats following the U.S. bombing of Libya. Libya became the target of American bombers following Ghaddafi's ordered bombing of a disco in Berlin, in which two American soldiers and a Turkish woman were killed. 

Ghaddafi had been flexing his muscles throughout the Mediterranean region, and his foray into targeted terrorism resulted in President Reagan's order for the bombing of the Libyan capital of Tripoli on April 15, 1986. In that bombing, Ghaddafi's fifteen-month-old adopted daughter was killed, and two of his sons were injured. He publicly swore revenge.

The result throughout Europe was that all Americans were put on alert, and due to Ghaddafi's broadcast of threats to American schoolchildren, all the commercial buses chartered for the transportation of Americans to various schools were immediately supplemented with armed military guards. These guards carried machine guns and other weapons to use if a bus carrying children was attacked. In Germany, each busload of schoolchildren carried at least two armed guards inside and was accompanied by two escort vehicles.

Department of Defense Schools were also subjected to phoned-in threats on a near-daily basis. In most DoD schools, children's educations were notably disrupted from April through June, when school ended. Classroom routine was recurrently derailed, as frequent phone threats during school hours meant that buildings had to be emptied and searched for bombs. Few if any schools were unaffected, and the disruption of classroom teaching resulted in fragmented education for all American students overseas during that spring of 1986.

Many families found that children developed behavioral difficulties due to the anxiety of the situation and the fears that mounted during the terrible weeks of that spring. Our own children were having nightmares of anonymous attackers and bombs exploding, so much so that we finally chose to drive them to the American schools ourselves, ever endeavoring to stay on the alert and to vary our times and routes of travel each day. Our middle child had the most vivid nightmares and would awaken crying on a nightly basis. I remember that her father and I took turns trying to comfort and reassure her. But her fears that someone wanted to hurt her or our family always seemed to speak louder than our prayers or reassurances. 

When I first heard that the schoolchildren of Beslan, Chechnya were taken captive, I remember being thrown back to the terror we witnessed firsthand in 1986. And when the event ended with the deaths of 186 schoolchildren, I wept for all the families who sent their sweet, innocent children to school that day in September in 2004, never to have them return home. And I still think of the children who survived that cruel event, and how their lives will never be the same. And I reflect, once again, on how very careless our own country remains in the most important task of protecting our most valuable asset -- our children -- and all our citizens in general. And as a member of a locally elected school board, I worry even more about an attack on the scale of Chechnya here in the United States. Can you imagine the depth of grief we would experience as a nation should something like that happen here?

I pray each and every day, asking God to protect my family and my country, and I pray for those who have sworn to defend and protect. We are dealing with the greatest depth of evil: that which seeks to destroy, for no other reason than hate. I pray that we never experience a Beslan, and I pray for those families who lost the treasure of their children forever. May we awaken here in the United States before it is too late.

Beverly Gunn is a simple Texas rancher who has a long memory. She lives with her husband in East Texas where she raises cattle and dotes on her grandchildren. She serves on her local school board because she loves children.