Published January 13, 2015
Blinded by a 1998 terrorist blast at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, Ellen Bomer never saw the men responsible for her loss. But the sound of their convictions Tuesday in a Manhattan courtroom was sweet music to her ears.
"It was the sound I wanted to hear," said Bomer, a career federal employee who lost her eyesight in the Kenyan blast. "I felt like standing up and singing out Handel's `Messiah' -- `Alleluia, alleluia."'
Bomer, 54, was joined in the courtroom by about two dozen people who had either survived the near-simultaneous explosions at two U.S. embassies or lost a family member in the blasts.
When the jury in U.S. District Court returned its verdict at about 12:30 p.m., "I was holding my breath," Bomer said in a corridor outside the courtroom. "I was crying inside, but at the same time happy."
Her happiness increased as four reputed followers of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden were convicted on all 302 counts stemming from the Aug. 7, 1998, blasts in Kenya and Tanzania. Two face the death penalty; two face life in prison.
The bombings killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans, and injured thousands more.
Bomer was on a one-month temporary assignment in Nairobi at the time of the blast. She was speaking with a co-worker on the building's first floor when the bomb went off, burying her beneath rubble for five hours.
She was fortunate to even hear the guilty verdicts. The explosion ruptured one of her eardrums; it was replaced during one of 19 surgeries Bomer endured following the blast.
Among her co-workers were embassy counsel general Julian Bartley Sr. and his son, Julian Jr. Both died in the blast; Bartley's wife, Sue, said she supported the death penalty for their killers.
"We want justice," she said after the verdict. "We want them punished to the fullest extent of the law."
Her daughter, Edith, said the guilty verdicts were "bittersweet. We are pleased with the verdict, but it doesn't minimize the loss or pain. We hope terrorists worldwide will know that America will not stand by and take their actions lightly."
Others reacted silently. Howard Kavaler sat in the courtroom with his daughters, 12-year-old Tara and 8-year-old Maya. The McLean, Va., man lost his wife Prabhi in the Kenyan explosion.
As the guilty verdicts came in, his daughters clutched at Kavaler from either side, and he pulled the girls close.
Outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan, Clara Aliganga of Tallahassee, Fla., gently touched a necklace bearing the name of her late son. Sgt. Nathan Aliganga, 21, of the U.S. Marine Corps, was working security in Kenya.
"I'm happy they came back with guilty," she said. "It still doesn't erase the pain and loss the families have suffered ... I would not wish this agony on anyone."