Friends and family got one more chance to say a public goodbye to Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya who was killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11, at a public service at San Francisco City Hall Tuesday afternoon. Jodi Hernandez reports.
Friends and family got one more chance to say a public goodbye to Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya who was killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11, at a public service at San Francisco City Hall Tuesday afternoon.
He was remembered as a hero, an optimistic man who made the world a better place and a humble diplomat who strived for global peace.
The 52-year-old Stevens was also remembered as a typical brother. The kind of brother who encouraged his younger sister, Hilary Stevens of Livermore, to stuff carrots up a sibling's nose on Christmas morning, and his younger brother, Tom Stevens - now an assistant U.S. Attorney in San Francisco - to streak across Piedmont sans clothing through a neighbor's home on a random weeknight during high school.
"He was a mischievous little guy," his older sister Anne Stevens, a pediatric rheumatologist at Seattle Children's Hospital, told a packed audience of about 700 guests in a ceremony filled with chamber music and military honors. "He once set my bassinet on fire with a magnifying glass."
The service was also the first time the public has had a chance en masse to hear the little, family stories about the slain ambassador's life - the kind of stories that, in sum, show a person's character and give insight into someone's past.
Hilary Stevens, who works as a medical resident at the county hospital in Stockton, said she was lucky enough to travel to where her older half-brother was living at the time: She rode camels with him in Egypt, snorkeled with him in the Sinai, danced with him in Israeli discos, and played tennis with him in Libya.
And despite all Stevens' travels and worldly excursions, his family said he always came home for big events, holidays, weddings and showers.
"He was always such a huge presence," Anne Stevens said. "At Christmas and parties he was always there, eating, drinking, telling stories and extracting our stories."
Those stories and more flowed during a service also peppered with dignitary remembrances.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee called Stevens a "hero" who led a "distinguished life and sacrificed his life for us...He simply made the world a better place for all of us."
Other leaders including former Secretary of State George Shultz; retired diplomat Tom Pickering, who was charged to investigate the Benghazi killings; U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and the Libyan Ambassador to the United States, Ali S. Aujali, spoke at the service. Aujali said there was "no excuse" for what happened, describing Stevens as a man who knew the Libyan people - and their suffering - well.
Pickering called Stevens a friend and was impressed that the ambassador was so well known and comfortable in the streets of Libya and other cities where he lived. He noted the embassy posted a photo of Chris Stevens drinking juice in a cafe that went viral online; the Libyans were stunned that such an important person would take part in such a mundane, ordinary act.
Stevens' death has become a political football in the presidential race -- and was the subject of a question at last week's Vice Presidential debate. But his stepfather and mother, Robert and Mary Commanday of Oakland, said that Tuesday, of all days, is a time simply to remember the good works and the infectious smile of their son. They chose not to speak of the contentious debate nationally about his death, rather to dwell on the life of a man who cared about peace in the Middle East and who spent decades serving his country.
"Our concern now is memorializing Chris and remembering his contribution to the country," his father, Jan Stevens, told the Daily Mail. Jan Stevens lives in Grass Valley where Stevens was born, but was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday. He did not speak at the ceremony.
But his children conjured up his words that he uttered to them on the day after his oldest son died thousands of miles away. Jan Stevens told his children that Chris Stevens had "made it to the top and that he was the best" at what he did, his family recounted at the service.
And Tom Stevens couldn't agree with his father more: "Chris was relentlessly positive..who always saw a golden future. What would the world be like if there was a fraction of people in the world who did things the way he did?"
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED The family has set up the J. Christopher Stevens Fund to award individuals and organizations who have good ideas on how to promote tolerance and peace in the Middle East, places where Stevens worked before he was killed.
To post a remembrance or photo, or to make a tax-deductible donation to the J. Christopher Stevens Fund, click here.
To send a private message or funding proposal idea, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.