Commentary

Centennial Park bombing survivor shocked by attack on Bachmans

Updated: August 11, 2008, 3:26 AM ET
By Elizabeth Merrill | ESPN.com

BEIJING -- The shrapnel still sits in Calvin Thorbourne's leg 12 years later, and every time the Olympics roll around, he feels a little ache.

Thorbourne had a birthday on Aug. 8, the start of these Beijing Games. He thought that was fitting. The next day, he turned on the TV to see it had happened again, that American civilians were random victims at the Olympics.

Atlanta Bombing
AP Photo/John Gaps IIIOne person was killed and more than 100 people were injured during the Atlanta bombing in 1996.
Thorbourne, who was injured in the Centennial Park bombing at the Atlanta Games in 1996, said he was shocked to hear that Todd and Barbara Bachman and their Chinese tour guide were attacked by a Chinese man while visiting the Drum Tower on Saturday, just hours after the Opening Ceremony. Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon, died from knife wounds. Barbara is in stable condition after undergoing eight hours of surgery Saturday, while Beijing authorities have declined to release any details about her condition.

The attacker, 47-year-old Tang Yongming, leapt to his death from a balcony on the tower, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Thorbourne was a record store supervisor in 1996, when he and some buddies went to Centennial Park to listen to music and get as close to the Olympics as a young man without tickets could. He felt safe that night. The place was packed. "It was a great time for Atlanta," he said.

At 1:20 a.m., as Thorbourne was getting ready to leave, a bomb ripped through the town square. Alice Hawthorne, a mother of two, was killed. Thorbourne was among 111 injured.

"I couldn't even fathom that somebody could plant a bomb," Thorbourne said. "A bomb? That was something I saw in other countries on the news. I never thought that could happen."

In Beijing, an Olympic fortress under tight police scrutiny, Saturday's events also seemed unfathomable. The Bachmans apparently were out sightseeing, passing time just hours before McCutcheon, who is married 2004 Olympic volleyball player Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman, was supposed to coach in his team's Sunday opener.

Thorbourne hopes the weekend events don't deter people from attending the Olympics. As he watched the previews for Opening Ceremony, he wished he was in Beijing.

"I still would go," he said. "I like Olympic sports. I like the festivities. I like that the whole world comes together."

Elizabeth Merrill writes for ESPN.com. She can be reached at merrill2323@hotmail.com.

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