News Search


Khobar Towers survivor visits the 33rd FW 27 years later

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christian Corley
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

“At first, nobody knew exactly what happened or if additional bombings were going to happen,” said Kenneth Giddens, a former crew chief with the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 33rd Fighter Wing. “There was a lot of chaos as people were running everywhere. Almost everybody I saw was injured somehow, mostly by glass, debris or concrete.”

In 1996, while Kenneth Giddens was deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, a bomb was detonated near his dorm at the Khobar Towers housing complex, injuring hundreds of Airmen and killing 19, 12 of them Nomads.

“We were allowed to go back in and retrieve what was left, throw it in a bag, and take it home with us,” said Giddens. “There wasn’t much left. The lockers were blown to bits; the living quarters were blown up and flipped upside down; everything in the bathroom was shattered.”

One thing that stuck out to Giddens was that people started helping each other immediately.

“People took care of others, and that was huge,” said Giddens. “A lot of people were tending to folks almost immediately. I had glass shards in my arms, hands and legs, but I took the bandages from the medical tent and applied myself, asking that people worse off than me be worked on first.”

While people assisted in caring for others, Giddens mentioned how the fear still lingered.

“After all that happened, it was just a sit-and-wait game,” said Giddens. “There were fears of it getting worse because there were other bombs that had gone off downtown from us. Everybody just wanted to know when the next flight home was.”

After returning home, a ceremony was held at Eglin, and Giddens earned a Purple Heart for his injuries.

“President Clinton came and spoke, and the families showed up for the deceased,” said Giddens. “That was when it sunk in that these 12 guys were not coming home. Two families there knew I knew their sons, so I chose to speak with them. That was probably one of the toughest parts for me because it’s hard to face somebody, especially a parent, knowing that they just lost a child, and then try your best to say what you knew about them.”

Now, 27 years later, Giddens visited the site of the 33rd Fighter Wing Khobar Towers Memorial and toured the flightline, bringing his children alongside him.

“I came here to show my kids where I worked for eight years, the type of aircraft that I worked on and the new aircraft that has been implemented since then,” said Giddens. “They got to experience a little bit of what I did for a living. I want them to know my history, the good and the bad. They need to know what I went through so they can understand me as a person if they see any signs of me being affected by what happened.”

Giddens’ advice to new Airmen is to take training seriously.

“When you get put in the classes, learn from them and study what they teach you,” said Giddens. “You never know when you may have to apply it, whether in or outside the military.”

Every year, a ceremony is held at the 33rd FW commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

“It helps us remember what we have and what we should be grateful for,” said Giddens. “It helps us to remember that people are going out to protect the freedoms we have at home.”

Giddens enjoyed his time revisiting the Nomads.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity,” said Giddens. “It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been here, technology has definitely advanced, and I think it’s phenomenal. I like what we saw today, and I think my kids really enjoyed it.”