As the nation mourns the first death of a U.S. ambassador in the line of duty in 33 years, the grief hits particularly hard in the East Bay knowing that slain Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens was one of our own.
Stevens, who earlier this year was confirmed by the Senate as ambassador to Libya, was reported among those killed by a mob attack on the U.S. Consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Stevens, 52, grew up in Piedmont and was a 1982 graduate of UC Berkeley and a 1989 graduate of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He also held a master's of science degree from the National War College.
Stevens had held two previous posts in Libya, as deputy chief of the U.S. mission between 2007 and 2009 and then as envoy to the Transitional National Council during the Libyan uprising in 2011. The State Department said he previously held diplomatic postings in Jerusalem, Damascus and Cairo.
According to The Associated Press, Stevens was among four killed in the attack on the consulate.
Guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used in the attack, which was launched by protesters who were angry over a film made by a man who has represented himself as an Israel-American real-estate developer living in California; He said he wanted to showcase his view of Islam as a hateful religion. He said it was a political movie, not a religious one. But outraged critics of the film, a portion of which was translated into Arabic and placed on YouTube, charged that it ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
The AP reported that the attack on the Benghazi consulate took place after similar protests in Cairo, during which hundreds of protesters had scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy.
Both Egypt and neighboring Libya have struggled with governance and maintaining order since dramatically throwing off the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi, respectively.
Early reports indicate that Stevens was killed as he tried to help staff evacuate the building. Although we did not know Stevens personally, those in the Bay Area who did know him said that helping others evacuate in such a crisis was perfectly in character for Stevens.
According to the State Department historian's office, Stevens becomes the sixth U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty and the first since Adolph Dubs in Afghanistan in 1979.
We agree with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she asserted that the attack should "shock the conscience" of people of all faiths.
She insisted that the attack would not alter United States policy in Libya.
Libyan officials spent the night in a manhunt trying to find those responsible for the killings, according to various news reports. And President Barack Obama condemned the attack saying, "Make no mistake, justice will be done."
As we sort through the diplomatic carnage of this horrible event, we cannot help but think of Stevens' friends and family who are living among us. We join the nation's highest officials and, indeed, the entire country, in offering our deepest condolences and gratitude.