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While Benghazi Hearings Continue, One Family Focuses On Memorializing Lost Loved One

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, as we just heard, much of the Benghazi investigation is focused on former ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, his work and his ultimate death in the attack. There's even been a political ad showing Stevens' grave. The late ambassador's family has honored his legacy with several projects. They're hoping to improve understanding between Americans and people in the Middle East and North Africa, areas where Stevens served. We spoke yesterday with Chris Stevens' sister, Anne Stevens, about his life and career in diplomacy.

ANNE STEVENS: He took such a strong interest in people with a good will, that he listened to people's stories so carefully, that he made people feel important. And he had this great ability to listen with wide eyes and excitement, to find joy in each person's story.

GREENE: How did you learn of his death?

STEVENS: The State Department notified us.

GREENE: And if you can, can you take me back to that day?

STEVENS: It was a pretty hard day, so I'm not sure that I want to go back to there right now.

GREENE: It was a moment when your family was really thrust into, you know, a harsh media spotlight. How have you and your family handle all that?

STEVENS: Well, you know, after Chris' death, there was such a huge outpouring of grief and love from friends and colleagues around the world that we felt very supported. And we felt so proud that he'd established so many wonderful relationships and he'd done such good work. And that's partly how we've been able to establish this new Stevens Initiative for virtual exchange, through partnerships and support from people who felt strongly that we should continue Chris' work.

GREENE: Did it surprise you how many people's lives he had touched around the world?

STEVENS: Oh, my gosh. It's amazing - amazing, the number of people, Libyans, who have reached out to me and said, I went out for shawarma with your brother. He came to our house. We played tennis with him. It's fantastic how many people he touched. What a wonderful way to live your life.

GREENE: And Anne Stevens, two weeks after your brother died, you spoke to The Seattle Times. And one thing you said was, I want to understand how this happened. Do you feel like you have the understanding you need now?

STEVENS: I think I understand what happened during that time. I mean, there was a large investigation, and I felt that it was very thorough. And we know what happened that day. What I don't know is how people - young people - can become so isolated in their own small world that they don't feel compassion for people who are different from them.

GREENE: So you feel like some of the early investigations by the State Department about the specifics of his death, you've gotten answers. But you feel like you're addressing now - through some of these programs - the hatred that led to the attack.

STEVENS: That's right. What we hope to do through this large program is foster understanding and empathy between our American youth and youth in the Middle East and North Africa.

GREENE: If there are families out there where someone is thinking about being a diplomat in a very dangerous place and his or her family is sort of worried and thinking about, you know, is it worth the sacrifice, what would you tell them?

STEVENS: To be brave. You know, it wasn't as if we didn't think about the risk when we saw Chris confirmed as the ambassador to Libya. It was certainly in the backs of our minds. But he was so excited to see the Libyan people free and developing their own democratic country that we were excited for him. And it's wonderful work that can really make history.

GREENE: Anne Stevens, all the best you and your family. And thanks so much for taking some time with us. We appreciate it.

STEVENS: Oh, thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.