A Sobering Reminder

Foreign Service Life
March 16, 2010

There are times when it’s easy to lull yourself into a false sense of security with this lifestyle, telling yourself that there’s no reason the bad guys would want to hurt little old you.  Unfortunately, Saturday was a tragic reminder for Foreign Service Families around the world about the VERY REAL danger that comes as a part of the package we sign up for.

In case you are not aware of the incident, over the weekend, 3 members of the Diplomatic community were killed in Ciudad Juarez, a town just across the border from El Paso, Texas.  The NY Times confirmed that 1 was a pregnant US consulate worker and the other 2 were accompanying spouses.  2 children were seriously wounded in the attack as well.  The attacks happened in broad daylight, en route back to their homes after a party at another consular officer’s house.  The thing that I’m still struggling to process is that it was just a casual afternoon gathering that is typical for Foreign Service families around the world.  It could have happened anywhere…

We have since received messages via our friends that the entire Embassy community in Juarez is in mourning, trying to make sense of these seemingly senseless killings.  Despite our physical distance from the murders, it still hit incredibly close to home.  Seven of our friends (and their families) are posted there and it just as likely could have been us that ended up with that assignment.

As you can see in the map above, our main Mexican Embassy is located in Mexico city.  But since Mexico is one of the highest Visa-processing countries, there are also five Consulates located in the border towns of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey.  The drug violence is not isolated to Ciudad Juarez — in fact in 2008 a grenade was launched at the Monterray Consulate, although it did not explode.  Hard to believe that something so close to our borders could present such a safety challenge.  It is a blessing to currently feel safe here in Manila, but I know that will not always be the case over the next 20 years.

I know that if these murders had happened a year ago when we were just going through training, I would have seriously questioned our decision to join.  In the 9 months we’ve lived overseas though, I’ve acquired a true sense of patriotism and pride for what our Embassies and Consulates do overseas.  It is vitally important work that is worth dying for.  That doesn’t make it any easier to process what happened on Saturday, but I can now say with confidence that I willingly accept the risks that come with this lifestyle.

For my part, I will commit to utilizing the appropriate security measures, continue living each day to the fullest, and remain grateful for all that I am experiencing on this global journey.  Our prayers are with you Juarez.

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  1. Jessica says:

    Wow! I agree with everything you said in your post about the fears and anxiety of FS life at times, but also the patriotism and pride you feel. My name is Jessica, and my husband, Barry, and daughter will be joining you in Manila next month. Can’t wait to meet you!

  2. minnesotagal says:

    Wonderful Jessica! May I be the first to welcome you to the Manila Mission… I’m having dinner this weekend with another recent arrivee who found my blog. We’d love to have you over as well once you get settled! Safe travels and remember to take it day by day as you’re going through the pack-out phase… Sarah

  3. Fabulous, fabulous post. Very informative and very touching.

  4. anon says:

    There are a total of 9 posts in Mexico. Besides those you show on the map also: Matamoros (on the border too), Hermosillo, Merida, Guadalajara. Monterrey isn’t on the border, but a few hours south. It’s still affected by the security situation though.

  5. minnesotagal says:

    Thanks for clarifying, I appreciate the extra information!

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