Dennis Brown | May 4, 2020
The suicide bomber drove around Baghdad’s Canal Hotel several times on the afternoon of Aug. 19, 2003, before finding a spot for his truck directly beneath the third-floor office of United Nations envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello. The terrorist then detonated his deadly device, killing 22, including Vieira de Mello and everyone else in that third-floor office except one — Gilburt Loescher, a longtime political scientist from the University of Notre Dame and an international expert on refugee and humanitarian issues.
Loescher died Tuesday, April 28, of heart failure. He was 75.
Loescher had arrived in Baghdad the afternoon of Aug. 19. He and colleague Arthur Helton from the Council on Foreign Relations met with U.S. Ambassador Paul Brenner at his office in Saddam Hussein’s former palace, then traveled to U.N. headquarters at the Canal Hotel. The bomb exploded minutes after Loescher and Helton arrived.
Loescher was among the more than 150 people injured in the attack, his wounds life-threatening, with doctors giving him only a 25 percent chance of survival. It took rescuers more than four hours to extract him from the rubble — amputating his legs in the process — and later told him the only reason he didn’t bleed to death was because he was trapped upside down.
In a first-person essay for the spring 2004 issue of Notre Dame Magazine, Loescher wrote: “I was the only survivor in the most devastated part of the building. I lost both my legs above the knees, severely damaged my right hand and suffered numerous shrapnel wounds. I am incredibly lucky to still be alive.”
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