Morning coffee drinkers at the Grididdle restaurant remember the guy with “strong ideas.”
To them, he was just a big jerk in his thirties working in the East Lancaster Avenue tire store.
Then one morning Wadih el-Hage was on the news – accused of killing 213 people in a terrorist bombing of the United States Embassy in 1998, and also accused of securing chemical weapons for fugitive Saudi multimillionaire Osama bin Laden.
The enemies attacking America are not all “out there”.
At the Griddle, they know we have enemies here.
“He was a radical, radical man,” said retired IRS agent Joe Vale, 71, drinking his black coffee in the old restaurant on the east side and remembering the tire guy on the street. who was Bin Laden’s “personal secretary”.
Formerly, el-Hage was Bin Laden’s administrative assistant. Then he was a terrorist organizer in Arlington and a tire repairer in Fort Worth.
Today, he faces a life sentence in a federal prison.
[Update: El-Hage remains in a Colorado prison serving life without parole.]
“He told people he hated the United States because we were helping Israel,” Vale said. “He told everyone he was an enemy of the United States.
“Who knows how many more like him are still here?” “
Bin Laden and his supporters are not the only suspects in Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
The trial of el-Hage – convicted of terrorism in the bin Laden bombing of the United States embassy in Kenya – is our most vivid local reminder that we are part of a larger world. vast.
We live in a community with instant access to this world – and all of its threats.
“We have to find out who did it, and then go get someone,” muttered Jim Standerfer, 54, Griddle customer, retired plasterer and Vietnam veteran, arguing between puffs of cigarettes and sips of coffee. .
“Really, though – they took too much money from federal intelligence agencies. I am much more worried about what is happening within our borders. I would pay more taxes to have better security here.
Some of Griddler’s customers have said that el-Hage drinks coffee there.
Others said they had never seen him, but heard about him from employees and customers of the tire store, which changed ownership.
“He always said he hated the United States,” Standerfer said.
“Fine. I know a lot of people who say they ‘hate’ America. Just don’t blow up innocent people because of it.
Vale, a native of the Rio Grande Valley and brother of former San Antonio State Senator Bob Vale, said he wanted the solution to be as simple as finding another nation to blame and “d ‘just go turn the whole place into a parking lot.’
“But it’s not that easy,” he said, waving his cup of coffee. “This is not another country that we are fighting against. It’s just a bunch of thugs against America.
Melvin Barksdale, 71, was behind the grill. He’s been cooking intermittently at Griddle’s restaurants in Fort Worth since 1947.
“These guys sat all day yesterday talking too,” he said, smiling and waving his hand. “They will be there all day today.
Lonnie Cornish, 63, owner of a pest control service, arrived at lunchtime. But he only wanted coffee.
“The government needs to have more infantry here, more agents,” he said.
“Whoever is behind this, there are a lot more terrorists in the United States. The government should check more of this stuff. “
The guys at the Griddle know what they’re talking about.
Some of them know a convicted terrorist.