[Virginia]: I was the end of my seventh grade year, the end of your [Kathy’s] junior year, and Doug was in between. So that was real tough for us because having been born and raised in Peru to leave and go to a new country was really hard. They were like family to us because we didn’t know all our family, our biological family, you know, extended family. So that was very tough, was to be uprooted and move to another country.
[Heidi]: Can I just interrupt and ask, was that because you parents [can’t hear] in Peru and they tried to [can’t hear]?
[Virginia]: They were going to be shutting down, the government was. They had a—I don’t know; you could probably explain better—they had a lease with the government or something.
[Eric]: There was a lot of conflict at that time. People in the universities and so on were criticizing SIL as being—what were they saying, that we were mining uranium?
[Virginia]: Oh, gosh. Weird.
[Eric]: There was a lot of opposition by Catholics, who were against the Evangelical police, and people in the university, who were leftist leaning. At that point, the government started to close down our operations. Right around that time, then, they did a reversal, but Dad and Mom had already made plans to leave.
[Virginia]: They had already assigned them to Colombia.
[Heidi]: So were there a lot of kids you’d grown up with that were leaving, too?
[Kathy]: Some were, but we were. . . .
[Virginia]: Dad [Will Kindberg] had just finished the completion of the New Testament.
[Virginia]: And I think he’d done some of the Old Testament, at least portions of the Old Testament. It was pretty much done at that time, so I think that’s why they had already assigned him to move.
[Kathy]: And they needed new translation people or something in Colombia.
[Virginia]: Yeah, so then since he’d already been assigned, even though then the government decided that Wycliffe could stay, we just continued onto the plans over there.
[Kathy]: Dragging our heals in the grass.
[Virginia]: Yeah, it was really a hard time to move. We docked in Barranquilla or Cartagena, I don’t know? Do you remember?
[Kathy]: We went to Cartagena.
[Virginia]: Was it Cartagena? And then we, I guess, flew to Bogota. And there had been a lot of guerrilla activity against Americans or foreigners in Bogota. So there had been bombs that had been placed in different foreign places. I don’t know if it was businesses or just residences.
[Kathy]: It was like bank and university and places that foreigners went to.
[Virginia]: Anyway, my dad had been talking about this, these occurrences, with one of the other missionaries who had picked us up at the docks.
[Kathy]: No, it was the airport.
[Virginia]: The airport. The airport. Anyway, when we get to—we had like a group-house in the capital because when would come from where we were out in the middle of nowhere, they would fly to Bogota. There was, like, a group-house where we would stay. And we got there and my dad had gotten out first, or one of the first people to get out of the car. There was a box sitting there by the door.
[Eric]: Cardboard box.
[Virginia]: Cardboard. I don’t . . . oh, I was talking to somebody. I wasn’t sure.
[Kathy]: It was a little—it looked like a transistor radio. It was only very, you know, it was just a little package with a little thing sticking out of it that clued him when it started to spark, he realized it was a bomb.
[Virginia]: So. . . .
[Heidi]: Did you guys drive off or what did you do?
[Kathy]: No. We didn’t. It was like ten seconds about.
[Virginia]: Well, Dad just jokingly said—he picks it up and says, “What is this, a bomb?” And then it started to spark, so he put it back down.
I was in the back of a VW Bug, in the little well, in the very back because I was the smallest. I saw it and somehow I got out in time. It was only a matter of seconds that it went off.
[Kathy]: It still . . . the man who was in it just started yelling, “It’s a bomb! It’s a bomb! Run!”
[Virginia]: So Kathy, I think you were with me. We ran across the street, which was a narrow street. Doug ran down the street. It knocked him over. It caused all the glass from all the buildings for blocks to shatter. And it fell on our heads and I had glass in my head for a long time. I remember feeling my head.
[Eric]: You actually got behind the car across the street. And mom was behind the car and got knocked down, too, I think.
[Kathy]: She was in the middle of the street and it knocked her over.
[Eric]: And the shrapnel, go ahead, you finish the shrapnel.
[Virginia]: The shrapnel—there was a kick-plate at the bottom of the door, which was metal, and pieces of that metal went into the group-house. And there was, like, a bodega, where they, people kept their winter coats and stuff, and it went through the door. One piece even went, went through the door, went through the wall of that bodega, went through clothing, and stuck into a 2×4. I mean, so the glass was pretty, pretty, um. . . .
[Kathy]: It was meant to kill anybody in that house and it would have if anybody was in the lower level, but it was midnight and nobody was down in that lower level.
[Virginia]: And there was one lady who had just had a caesarian section or a DNC of something. She’d just had surgery. Just at the right time, she was in her bed, she rolled over and the glass fell. That was Lush.
[Kathy]: Oh, Edna Lush.
[Virginia]: Edna Lush. Anyway. . . .
[Marcia]: And your parents never wrote anything about this, did they?
[Kathy]: Oh, yeah, Dad.
[Marcia]: I don’t ever remember hearing this story.
[Virginia]: Oh, yeah.
[Kathy]: The story gets better and better every time.
[Steve]: I understood the tone of it.
[Mary Lynn]: I’ve heard it differently, too, multiple times.
[Virginia]: So that was my introduction to Colombia, was that. It affected me for a long time. I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t be around fireworks for many years. My husband will attest, I had nightmares many years after we were married, which would have been—I was twelve and ten, probably twenty years later, I was still having nightmares, so it affected me in a really big way. My question was—and my dad wrote, he did some memoires—and my big questions was, “You know, if they hate us so much, why are we here?” You know, not understanding, you know. Anyway, I was only twelve, so I didn’t understand much.
[Kathy]: It was scary after that because, too, because they kept threatening, and we had to stay in Bogota to do paper work. Remember that?
[Virginia]: No, I don’t remember that.
[Kathy]: They kept having other threats and then they had suspicious people driving by in cars.
[Virginia]: Oh, I do remember. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. So that was kind of scary.
NB: A State Department document on WikiLeaks dates this bomb to the week prior to the report of Friday, August 6, 1976. As to the context for this and other bombings in Bogota that week, it reads:
MORE TERRORIST BOMBS EXPLODED IN BOGOTA WITH U.S. PRIVATE FACILITIES AMONG THE TARGETS. FOLLOWING THE FAILURE OF THE NATIONAL SALARY COUNCIL TO AGREE TO NEW MINIMUM WAGES THE GOVERNMENT UNILATERALLY MOVED TO IMPOSE HIGHER LEVELS. THE LATEST PRICE INDEX INCREASE INDICATES THAT THE GOC’S INFLATION TARGET OF 15 PERCENT FOR 1976 IS NOW AN IMPOSSIBLITY. THE POLITICAL SEASON HAS BEGUN WITH FORMER FINANCE MINISTER AGUDELO ADDED TO THE LIST OF POSSIBLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. PRESIDENT LOPEZ TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A JOURNALISM AWARDS CEREMONY TO DEFEND THE NEW PRESS LAW. MAJOR GENERAL VALDERRAMA TOOK OVER AS DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL POLICE.
story told by Virginia and Kathy (Lee’s daughters) with interjections by Eric (Lee’s son), Marcia (Steve’s wife), Heidi (Steve’s daughter) and Steve to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)
Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)
- Virginia wins the last brownie. But Virginia and Kathy, can I ask for a few more details. Were the threats specific? Did they just want Americans to leave? Were they trying to scare the US or the Colombian government into giving them something? Was it mere terrorism? Did you go to the hospital that night? Did the mission provide counseling then or later? What kind of comfort did your parents take/offer you? Did they seem scared? Did they consider leaving?
- You talked about lasting nightmares and your visceral reaction to fireworks. (I don’t do well with fireworks, either.) Looking back, are there other things—positive or negative—that you take away from these threatening and dangerous situations?
- You spoke of not understanding because you were twelve. What do you think you would have understood if you were older?
- Marcia didn’t remember hearing this story in 1976, but others do. What did you think, Gail and Bruce and Eric? Steve?