A former Justice Department staffer in the Office of Public Affairs was in Uganda and headed to one of the locations where a bomb detonated during the World Cup on Sunday, Fox News reported.
Ross Weingarten, a former press assistant, left the Justice Department a few months ago. He plans to attend law school in the fall, and in the meantime is doing communications work at a HIV/AIDS clinic in Kampala, Uganda. Ross is the son of Steptoe & Johnson’s Reid Weingarten, a criminal defense lawyer and friend of Attorney General Eric Holder.
Weingarten was watching the World Cup elsewhere in Kampala when he got a text from his roommate, who was watching the match across town at the Rugby Club. He headed over at half time, but got a text from a co-worker when he was in a taxi on the way over, informing him about the first attack at a different restaurant and suggesting he stay put. A bomb went off at the Rugby Club at the end of the match.
“I would have been there [at the Rugby Club] had I not gotten that text message,” Weingarten told Fox News. “It was crazy. It had a 9/11 feel.”
The attacks killed 74 World Cup fans. The Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is believed to be responsible, according to the BBC. Read a White House background briefing here about al-Shabaab.
Weingarten said his roommate was “a little dinged up” but okay. On Monday, Weingarten volunteered for the Red Cross, helping to handle victims and their families at a hospital.
“I arrived at Mulago National Hospital to see hundreds of people gathering outside,” Weingarten wrote on a blog he has been keeping about his travels. “They were waiting to hear of news about loved ones. Some were crying, others were staring into the distance with hollow eyes, and still others chatted absentmindedly.”
Among his duties as a press assistant was sending out news releases about terrorist attacks and terrorism-related prosecutions. Experiencing a terrorist attack in real life was surreal, Weingarten said.
“It sort of felt like you’re watching a scary movie on your couch, and then all of a sudden you open your eyes and you are actually in the scary movie,” Weingarten told Fox News. “I’ve read about [terrorist groups overseas] a thousand times, and then they attack the bar that I’m going to. It’s completely insane.”
Read the full account here.