On the night of June 25, 1996, near Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, terrorists positioned a tanker truck filled with explosives less than 100 feet away from a building in the Khobar Towers Complex that housed deployed airmen. Shortly before 10 p.m. local time the bomb detonated, killing 19 airmen and wounding an estimated 400 others.
Defense Special Weapons Agency experts later estimated the bomb’s explosive power as equivalent to 23,000 pounds of TNT.
The terrorists had backed the truck into a parking lot directly in front of Building 131, just beyond the fence, wire and concrete barriers surrounding the Khobar Complex. The explosion left a crater 16 feet deep and 55 feet wide, and completely sheared off the front half of Building 131.
The adjacent building, 133, was also hit hard. Everyone was saved in 133 except one civil engineer.
The Khobar Towers bombing was the catalyst for important changes that directly affect how civil engineers build and maintain facilities that airmen live and work in today.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.