A Widow’s Tale: Real Lives and the Tragedy of Terrorism

Headline

The Tragic News of December 14, 1979
(Click for Larger Photo)

Late in the afternoon of Friday December 14, 1979, June’s husband found himself on a NATO shuttle bus with 2 other engineers (Elmer Cooper and Robert French) and an active duty Army sergeant, making the routine journey from the munitions depot to their quarters in Florya, a suburb of Instanbul, Turkey. When the shuttle came to a stop in front of their residence, the four men began to disembark, moving to the rear to unload personal property they had placed there earlier. Suddenly, from across the street – and from a car that came screeching to a stop behind the van – emerged a group of terrorists brandishing AK47’s, led by a woman referred to as “the Scorpion.” One bullet passed through the back side of Jim Clark’s skull, killing him instantly as he attempted to duck behind the van – whereas the 2 other engineers lived on for an unspecified amount of time after the attack and died in local hospitals. Master Sergeant James Smith, Jr. managed to flee into a nearby drainage ravine – where pursuing terrorists caught up with him and shot him several times as he raised his arms in the air and attempted to surrender. A Turkish police officer later placed Smith’s body in the back of a pickup truck and drove it to the Cakmakli NATO installation, whereas the body of June’s husband lay in the street covered with a white sheet until local authorities took it to a Turkish morgue. Returning Jim Clark’s body to the United States for burial proved very difficult, but eventually successful through the intercession of Representative Jim Wright and President Jimmy Carter. A fellow resident of the quarters where they lived fired down on the terrorists with a shotgun from an upstairs window, wounding at least one of them. Erroneous reports of the time that have survived to this date in some renditions, stating that they were lined up and shot with their hands on their heads, are untrue – since all four of the Americans attempted to escape. The Turkish van driver lived through the event, although he sustained serious wounds that severely threatened his life. On the other side of the world, Christmas presents remained unopened under a family Christmas tree heavily weighted and bowed by a dark, intense, indescribable grief.

Honor Guard

Receiving the Flag – December 29, 1979
(Click for Larger Photo)

With her soul mate’s Air Force flying wings pinned proudly to the lapel of her blue suit, over 2 weeks later June Clark stood to receive the ceremonial flag that had draped the coffin of her martyred husband – from a full military honor guard, complete with a three-volley salute. News reporters spoke into whirring and inquisitive cameras, communicating the last vestiges of Jim Clark’s life to an American public profoundly affronted by the Iranian Hostage Crisis – but June’s memories of the events were heavily stifled by severe emotional trauma that required the immediate help of psychotropic medication. However, the benefits of giving birth to 8 children came rebounding back to her, as each of them rallied around their mother (and each other) to find a way through the darkness that had suddenly enveloped them, sending their lives ricocheting off in previously unforeseen directions. This struggle to overcome grief compounded and became a mountain even more difficult to climb when her second daughter finally capitulated to the aftereffects of spinal meningitis and passed away in November of 1983 at the age of 24. The sorrow June felt ran very deep, but she was able to traverse the depth of that abyss in a courageous effort that involved her love for children, an intensified dedication to academic pursuits, and her own God-given talents in art. Famous writers have often referred to a woman’s invincible spirit, but a rarity of females have actually shown the courage and internal strength to persevere as June Clark did in the years following the death of her husband, son and daughter.

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You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

About jrcclark

On October 2, 2001, scarcely one month after the horrors of 911, Representative Jim Turner of Texas introduced H. R. 2982 to the House of Representatives, calling for “the establishment of a memorial to victims who died as a result of terrorist acts against the United States or its people, at home or abroad.” The resolution was amended by the Committee on Resources in June of 2002 and eventually approved on September 25, 2002 on a “motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill.” It was sent to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but it has languished there ever since – in effect dead and going nowhere. In 2008, this Senate Committee considered making Dark Elegy, the work of a New York sculptor who lost a son in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, as the monument called for in H. R. 2982. However, the committee turned down the touching and thought-provoking sculptures of Suse Ellen Lowenstein – on the grounds that “…as compelling and impressive a proposal as has been made for the memorial in question, that we believe that, for the time being, that it relates to a very specific incident and should be treated as such rather than as a generic monument to victims of terrorism for all time.” Today the resolution seems forgotten, and it is the purpose of this website to promote a petition to the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requesting that H. R. 2982 be reconsidered and revisited.
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1 Response to A Widow’s Tale: Real Lives and the Tragedy of Terrorism

  1. Pingback: They Came in Peace: The Beirut Memorial | Honor the Victims of Terrorism

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