|Statue of Alex Odeh in Santa Ana|
If you were able to identify your and others' misfortunes
I would have brought out an extraordinary human being of you
--from a poem by Alex Odeh
On the morning of Oct. 11, 1985, Norma Odeh made breakfast for her husband, Alex, in their Orange home. The night before, KABC-TV Channel 7 had interviewed Odeh, West Coast regional director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and one of the U.S.'s most prominent Arab-American activists. The interviewer wanted his opinions about the Achille Lauro hijacking and the subsequent killing of 69-year-old wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer that had happened just a couple of days before.
A camera crew filmed Alex at the ADC offices in Santa Ana. He condemned the hijacking, as well as terrorism in general. But he also claimed the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) wasn't responsible for the attack and called Yasser Arafat "a man of peace" for helping to secure the release of hostages.
"After he came home, we watched it together," Norma recalls. "I hope to God nobody does anything to you," she told him then. Alex's sister also phoned him with her worries after seeing the news segment. He moaned to his wife about how KABC had simplified his nuanced statements into a soundbite about Arafat, then went to bed.
The interview was still on Norma's mind the next morning when Alex kissed her goodbye. A long day awaited him, including a speech at Congregation B'nai Tzadek, a Jewish synagogue in Fountain Valley.
Odeh arrived at the ADC's second-story offices in Santa Ana around 9 a.m. His assistant usually opened up in the morning, but she was running errands that day for an upcoming banquet. As Odeh turned the doorknob, a rigged 30-pound pipe bomb exploded, blowing off his legs. Shards from the shattered windows rained onto the street. Only the concrete floor saved the debris-strewn office from total obliteration. Paramedics hoisted Odeh's charred body onto a stretcher and rushed him to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana; doctors pronounced him dead roughly two hours after the attack. He was 41 years old.More »