Remembering Chris Stevens: Share Your Photo or Story

The family of Ambassador Chris Stevens has set up a Tumblr to capture the memories of people he touched, far and near. The online remembrance says that Chris had a passion for building bridges between the people of the United States and the Middle East. And that in this spirit, a fund has been established in his name to support this important, yet unfinished, endeavor. The family envisions the Fund to support activities that promote religious tolerance, cultural understanding, educational youth exchanges, and other people-to-people programs.

The Stevens family has partnered with the New Venture Fund to house the J. Christopher Stevens Fund. The New Venture Fund is a 501(c)(3) public charity that supports public interest projects in areas including global health and development, human rights, conservation, education, and disaster relief. For more information, see http://www.newventurefund.org

All contributions by US donors are tax deductible. Donors residing outside of the United States should refer to the tax laws of their country of residence to determine the tax deductibility of their donation.

For information about the fund, please contact rememberingchrisstevens@gmail.com. For technical support, please contact support@networkforgood.org.

Photo from The Stevens Family (Used with Permission)

The Tumblr is about three days old and growing. There are photos of Ambassador Stevens with the Piedmont High School A Capella Choir at the Fourth of July Celebration in Piedmont Park in 1978; of him appearing as Robert Livingston in the 1980 community theatre production of 1776 in Piedmont, California; with The Rat Pack at the US Embassy Damascus Marine Ball in 2001.  There is even a photo of Stevens of Arabia (in full gear) from Halloween 2001.

What a bore it is, waking up in the morning always the same person. I wish I were unflinching and emphatic and had big eyebrows and a message for the Age.
— Chris Stevens, Piedmont High School Yearbook, 1978 (originally adopted from The Living Age, Volume 294)

I’ve read through the touching and tender stories shared by people who knew him in Piedmont High, UC Berkeley, Peace Corps, and the Foreign Service family.  And it’s hard not to be heartsick.  There are also some notes from Libyans in Tripoli and Benghazi.  Fair warning – you will need a big box of tissues.  Below are some excerpts.

 

A few days ago I had a silly idea: Go back in time and warn Chris about the Libyan terrorists. It’s not an original idea — actually, it was the plot of Back To The Future. But more to the point, it’s impossible, I don’t have a time machine. The only way back is to remember.
— David Wingate

 

Time passed, and Chris headed off to the State Department.  The last business card I have from him stated his billet as “Iran Desk Officer.”  I asked him what he did.  He said he could tell me, but then he’d have to kill me.
John Lamborn

 

I see you picked up a few things in the Middle East like the fine art of negotiating. I was looking forward to hounding you about this chair and how you proposed to get it to Thailand from Libya! Now I have no chair, am down one running partner, and have trouble sleeping. So tell me dear friend, why did you have to become a celebrated fallen hero when I would have preferred that you try to sell me another chair?
– M

 

He loved that part of the world and the people he met, and despite every reason not to, remained optimistic that the world could be made a better place. He was doing hugely important work, winning over hearts and minds, and I can’t imagine anyone being a better representative for our country overseas.
— Austin Tichenor

 

During an earlier tour in Tripoli, when Moammar Gaddafi was still in power, Chris once grabbed the camera off a Libyan intelligence goon on his tail, turned and, with a big smile, took the guy’s picture. Then he gave the camera back. The lanky Californian could be both charming and disarming, even as he made his point.
Robin Wright
Author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.”

 

They told me you died but I refuse to mourn you.  I refuse to send condolences, and I will continue to refuse doing that.   So, I decided to send you an email instead like the old days.  I wanted to prove them wrong. They don’t know that someone like you never dies.  I refuse to yield to the will of evil, despair and darkness because you taught me not to. Chris—we shall meet up and you shall have “a social cigarette” (remember) and we shall both laugh just like the old days … they just think you died…
— Ibrahim, U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem

 

Your life was cut short on September eleven
We all know that you are gone to heaven
* * *
With sadness we grieve, and we shed tears
We will achieve your vision if it takes 100 years
—Mahmud Abudaber, Libyan American

 

I know in Tripoli where i live, the people love him, and miss him, they miss the times he strolled down the streets of the city, we all felt for once we have a diplomat who was one of us, a normal person, he ate where we ate he went to normal small local cafés. and people here loved that.
[…]
It’s not something sorry can fix but we truly are so sorry, i’m sorry we could not do more to keep Chris safe.
— Hassan Morajea, 18, British Libyan, Benghazi, Libya

 

We in Libya will miss Chris dearly and we are more than appreciative of his hard work and committed to bringing the evil group that took his life away to justice.

Thank you and we will miss you brother.
— Sami, Tripoli, Libya

 

I’ll end with an excerpt from a beautiful piece written by Allen Manzano, not because I knew Ambassador Stevens but because, it seems to me, he, too would wish “for laughing days to come again” … maybe not today or tomorrow when we have not yet burn our grief out … but one day soon …

Isn’t it true that when we heard the news we said to ourselves our laughing days are over?

Isn’t it true that knowing who he was with all his wisdom and caring heart, his skills, his willing servitude to make that longed for better world, we asked our selves can this be that this rare good man is gone?
[…]
Isn’t it true that our consolation is to have known this man, too soon taken, and to know that it would have surely been his ardent wish for those he loved that, yes, oh yes, in our work for good, our laughing days should come again?

 

If you have a story or a photograph to share of Ambassador Stevens, please visit http://www.rememberingchrisstevens.com/

 

 

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2 responses

  1. I have been reading numerous blogs and websites from Americans who simply do not understand Libya, the role that Chris Stephens had in that country — and the region in general. He is one of my posts:
    I response to J. Schneider’s irresponsible comments and photos of the late Ambassador Stephens.
    Anyone who has been to Benghazi or Libya the past 18 months, or anyone who has friends and colleagues on the ground there (Libyans and Americans alike), will tell you that Chris Stephens was one of the most revered diplomats in the country. He may have actually been the most popular individual among Libyan freedom fighters and the youth of Libya, period. Ambassador Stephens was in Benghazi during the Libyan civil war, and was openly assisting the Libyan opposition that rules Libya today. Everybody in the country knows this.
    Stephens was an old-school Arabist at the State Department. He was fluent in Arabic and always walked the streets of Benghazi meeting vendors, eating with small restaurant owners, he bought local products from shop keepers, and 90% of the time he shunned his bomb-proof Humvees and Chevy Suburbans for a walk among the local population. He was an old-school diplomat who believed in immersing himself in the local culture and most of his closest friends and contacts were locals and international diplomats. As an ambassador, he often decides at the end of the day his level of security, and he knew Benghazi had Al Qaeda and other related groups of related operatives on the ground. However, if you are truly a “boots-on-the-ground” diplomat, security assessments will never be 100% water tight, unless you behave like 90% of most diplomats and remain inside your embassy or your bomb-proof Suburban.
    Unfortunately for the US, many of our diplomats are not like Chris Stephens, and they remain inside their embassy walls and behind desks just like most Americans do when they go to work at a bank or an insurance company.
    Instead of commenting on photos that you obviously do not understand (because local Libyan citizens took him to the main hospital in Benghazi) — and the late Ambassador Stephens was not dragged through the streets of this Libyan city that he loved and respected — you could use this frustration that you have vented on the internet towards encouraging more young Americans to learn foreign languages and join the foreign service or other US services that will foster US influence and power through integrating our values that we know work. America needs more great Americans like Stephens; we have them, but they remain behind their desks and in front of their computer screens. There are no simple, news media driven answers.
    This would make Chris Stephens proud if more American foreign service personnel would dare to leave their cars, close there laptops, and walk among the women and men who make the tea and prepare the falafel. Most do not. And yes, some will be killed, and others could be beaten, but that’s the cost sometimes of working in emerging countries and newly-formed yet fragile democracies. Some die so that others live, that’s what built our country.
    America has always been great at creating allies from enemies — we are second to none at that. Let’s get back to work.
    Philip Bay

    • Thank you for your note, Philip. There are indeed some irresponsible talk and ugly rumors on the net from people who do not know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, the lack of understanding or misunderstanding has never dissuaded some people from engaging in such talk in the wild, wild west of our day. That’s the nature of the beast, we just need to walk away sometimes.

      The last several years have seen a spike in assignments of our diplomats to the “harder” parts of the world. In fact, of those assigned overseas, about 60 percent are stationed at what’s called “hardship posts.” Some of these posts are for 1-2 year assignments, some does not allow family members to join the employees, many goes through an evacuation at one time or another in their working lives. A good number of employees and families were evacuated during the Arab Spring, and once more this past week.

      Our diplomats know that life is out there on the streets, and that they need to get out to get the pulse and understand their host country. As an example, you can check out US Mission Pakistan’s online digs and see that even in that most challenging security environment, they are up and about and away from their desks.