WAITING, HOPING Concern over husband left behind in Kuwait City


Robert Dunn is still waiting for a reply to letters he sent to the White House and a few congressmen, angrily contrasting President Bush's August vacation in Maine with his brother's life of hiding in Kuwait.

Dunn, however, seems confident that he will hear from his brother, David, a Seventh-Day Adventist missionary, before he hears from the politicians.

"I think David can talk his way out of things that most people can't," said Robert Dunn, a chemist who lives in Frederick.

David Dunn's wife, Elizabeth, and their three sons, ages 6, 4, and 18 months, were evacuated two weeks ago. But David had to stay behind lest Iraqi troops recognize him as an American and detain him.

David Dunn, 36, had dreamed of serving his church in an Arabic country since he visited Pakistan and Afghanistan in the early 1970s. After spending 2 1/2 years with a church in Hershey, Pa., he was assigned to Kuwait City, the capital, to a church that served the Indians and Filipinos who do most of the menial jobs in Kuwait.

Elizabeth Dunn, who is staying with her parents in Reading, Pa., said she first watched the Iraqi invasion on television. "Then we went to the window," she said. "As we looked around, we saw there was smoke in a few areas and tanks were going by on the road below us."

The family happened to have been staying in an airport hotel two miles south of Kuwait City, on a brief vacation. When American troops arrived in Saudi Arabia five days later, the Dunns worried that their proximity to the airport would put them directly in the path of war.

Days later, the Dunns packed up and left the hotel, although the Iraqis who owned it were advising guests they would be safer to stay. "We just kind of ignored that, walked out the door and went home," she said. "It was probably the best move we made."

Other Americans had moved to hotels to be safe, only to be rounded up there weeks later by Iraqi troops. The Dunns were tipped off to this possibility by a British friend who had worked in a Kuwaiti hotel.

In the first two weeks after the invasion, the Dunns accepted official Iraqi assurances that life in Kuwait would proceed as normal and no one would be threatened. They felt secure enough at first to drive around town past tanks in the streets and troops dug in along the beaches lining the gulf road.

But as conditions worsened, the Dunns thought briefly about escaping, but didn't want to risk a long drive in intense heat. The children might have died of heat exhaustion or starvation along the way, she said.

By the end of the second week following the invasion, the Dunns no longer ventured out of the house. The Iraqi command was urging British and Americans to move to hotels for their safety. From the advice of their British friend who worked in one, the Dunns were suspicious. "At that point, we decided that whatever they said, we would do the opposite."

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti resistance was blowing up Iraqi ammunition trucks at night and sniping at troops. Tracer bullets flew over their house one night. A tank was positioned two blocks away.

Elizabeth Dunn and her husband explained to the children that Saddam Hussein "liked Kuwait and wanted it for his own," she said. "We kind of made a moral of it, that you don't go taking things that don't belong to you."

The Dunns spent three weeks indoors. They papered over the big picture windows facing the street so no one looking in could see that Westerners lived inside. Friends from the Indian community did their food shopping and brought news from the outside.

The American embassy advised them that an evacuation plan was in the works, but it was the British embassy that offered the first escape. The bus convoy, however was only for women and children. David Dunn had to stay.

The Dunns decided it was better to split the family than wait out the crisis together. They wanted the children out of Kuwait before war broke out. They also realized their six-month food supply could last longer if only one person stayed behind.

So Elizabeth Dunn and her children boarded a bus at a shopping center Sept. 4 for a trip to Baghdad, where they caught a flight to Ankara, Turkey. They landed in Philadelphia three days later.

The Iraqi invasion caught the Dunns as they were thinking of taking a new assignment in another gulf nation.

The last word she heard about her husband was from other women returning to the United States on Sept. 9. He was still safe in the house then. But Elizabeth Dunn worries that eventually her husband may feel pent up and wander outside and be arrested.

She tries to crowd out her worry about him with the trust that comes from her faith. "We don't know if we'll see each other again. That's scary," she said. Yet, "I have hope, and have to keep that."

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