Sunday, January 17, 2010

DeLong "Had the calling"

There was a nice piece in yesterday's Washington Post about Victoria DeLong, the FSO who was killed in Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti. I have shared it with you below:

Victoria DeLong was only known U.S. diplomat to die in quake

Victoria DeLong didn't have a favorite country. After serving as a diplomat in so many, from Costa Rica to Congo, choosing one would have been hard.

But friends say that few places in her nearly three decades at the State Department touched her the way Haiti did.

Posted there last year, she was struck not only by the poverty but by the resilience of the people, recalled Cesar B. Cabrera, who was the U.S. ambassador to Mauritius and kept in touch with DeLong after she moved from that island nation to Washington and then on to Haiti.

"She said they were very poor, but they were always smiling and they were very nice people," Cabrera, who is retired, said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico.

DeLong, who was 57 and served as a cultural affairs officer in Port-au-Prince, died in Tuesday's earthquake. She was at her home in the capital city when the quake struck, and she is the only U.S. diplomat known to have perished in the catastrophe.

It was the end of a career that began by chance at a California college.

A fellow student was taking a break from the Foreign Service to go back to school, and she raved to DeLong about what a wonderful career the State Department offered.

"I was the one who convinced her to join," said Dorothy Ledger, who was that other student and who remained a close friend.

By Ledger's account, it was a career choice that DeLong never regretted.

"She loved it. She absolutely loved it," Ledger said in an interview from Kentucky. "She loved the travel. She loved her job. She just loved all of it."

Over the course of 27 years, DeLong counted Australia, Germany and the Philippines among her postings.

Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, was her last overseas assignment before Port-au-Prince. Like Haiti, Mauritius is a small nation on an island, but with none of the economic and political instability that have long plagued Haiti.

When Cabrera arrived as the ambassador in 2006, DeLong was already in Mauritius. As part of the small embassy staff, the two worked closely on issues such as terrorism and piracy, which are very much part of the mission, given the proximity to Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Less than a month after his arrival, she accompanied him on a trip to Djibouti to meet with U.S. military officials stationed there.

Cabrera soon learned that DeLong shared the passion that he and so many others brought to jobs in the Foreign Service.

"It's a vocation. It's a calling," he said. "She had the calling."

In Haiti, it wasn't just her smarts and determination that impressed Janet A. Sanderson, who was the U.S. ambassador to Haiti from 2006 to 2008. "She had a wonderful sense of humor, which you have to have in Haiti, even under the best of times," Sanderson said.

For DeLong's family, the spirit of their lost loved one is what they want people to remember.

"Victoria cared deeply for her family and friends," her family said late Friday in a written statement. "She was a wonderful sister, friend, and humanitarian; she was cheerful and full of life in all her endeavors and accomplishments."


theworldthatweliveinblog said...

I'm glad you posted this, I may not have come across it otherwise. Your coverage of the Haiti tragedy and its very personal effects has been insightful for me.

Also, thanks for the note about other Christian churches here in Jerusalem. Because we can't really talk about our church, we don't really talk about other people's church related experiences either. It's not "good" to know that other people encounter similar frustrations, but it certainly fleshes out my understanding of this complicated place.

Denise said...

Thank you for this posting. In St. Louis, I surely would not have read it otherwise. I have also posted on my blog- I hope you don't mind.

Thanks for linking me here, I am enjoying the traffic, as am very new to blogging and the FS (spouse is DS).

My best ~ Denise