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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 19, 1997)
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GUPTA from page 1
gers of visiting the country riddled by
anarchy and rebel groups today — a
country that has never fought a civil
war, but now finds its children carry
ing machine guns and hand grenades.
Instead, the two discussed the city’s
“The Albanian people are the most
hospitable people in the world,” Gupta
said. “I would have probably stayed
— and hid myself in a closet every
Nighttime was the dangerous time,
he said. With the curfew, the streets
were abandoned each night by 7. At
night, the rebels were left alone to loot
businesses and shoot their guns.
During the day, Albanians travel
the streets to go to work and go shop
ping as usual, he said.
Gupta said he traveled to the Uni
versity of Tirana every day, although
Albanian President Sali Berisha’s gov
ernment had closed all schools—even
The rebellion begins
Gupta taught school only a few
days before schools were closed and
the curfew was placed on his freedom,
When Gupta arrived in Albania on
Friday, Feb. 21, the country was “per
fectly safe,” he said. No travel restric
tions existed, and he would leave his
hotel to buy fruit at 9 pjn.
The darkness was not threatening
then, he said, and the people were not
At that time, a large number of
Albanians had already lost their sav
ings in failed pyramid schemes, and
were calling on their President Sali
Berisha to resign. They blamed
Berisha for not warning his country
of the bad investments, Gupta said.
The early rebellions started in the
southern Albanian town of VIwe one
or two days after he arrived. Ordinary
citizens began to take over military
garrisons and armories. The military
guards did not resist, perhaps because
they could not fire on their own people.
Soon, Albanians who had never
handled guns before stole high-pow
ered machine guns, tanks and gre
nades. They shot their guns into the
air to simply demonstrate they had
guns, Gupta said. They wanted the
government to know they wielded
power and would continue to gain
power until the president resigned.
“If the president would have re
signed two weeks ago, I would still be
(in Tirana),” Gupta said.
But Berisha did not resign, and
refused any concessions demanded by
his people. So they acquired more and
more guns, Gupta said. There were
unintentional injuries, but no rebels
attempted to damage property or hurt
anybody, he said.
Then the tanks came into Tirana.
In broad daylight — 2:30 in the
afternoon — a military garrison was
looted in Tirana. Rebels simply broke
the locks. Guards, if there were any,
ran away when they saw the approach
The president declared a state of
emergency, closing the schools and
setting a 7 p.m. street curfew. Shops
and government offices closed at 3
pjn. The curfew was later extended
by one hour, but the streets were still
deserted after dark.
Soon police began to abandon their
posts, and military officers joined the
“The common people were really
afraid” because of the near-disappear
ance of police meant to protect them,
Political supporters of both the
Socialist party and the Democratic
party in power under President
Berisha started to worry that members
of the opposite party might seek re
venge for past political events, Gupta
They would not sleep in their
homes, he said, and were “trying to
remain as invisible as possible.”
In the meantime, Gupta stayed in
his hotel and learned to sleep well in
spite of the machine-gun fire at night.
He continued to have his shoes shined
each morning by a familiar face at the
“I became part of the furniture,”
he said, laughing.
A turn for the worse
About 100 reporters from around
the world began to flood Gupta’s ho
tel, located across from the prime
minister’s palace. More people got
guns and shot them in the middle of
the streets, sometimes from their
Mercedes Benzes, Gupta said.
Other European countries sent rep
resentatives to convince the Albanian
government to make concessions to
quiet the violence. Albania granted
amnesty to all those who had stolen
guns, tanks, figjhter planes, helicop
ters and even navy ships.
But the rebellion would not end
without a resignation from the presi
dent. Armed gangs began to break into
businesses and homes, loot and beat
Albanians. The rebels had moved from
protesting the government to hurting
“That didn’t happen in the begin
ning at all,” Gupta said.
When U.S. ambassadors received
word of the violence against people,
they decided to send some personnel
and families home to America, Gupta
On March 4, the U.S. Agency for
International Development invited
Gupta and other professors for a meet
ing where they were warned to observe
the government’s laws and keep a low
profile as foreigners in the country.
They were also warned that they could
be asked to leave if the situation in
Albania got worse.
Ten days later a message arrived
from the U.S. government telling
Gupta he should be ready to leave the
country as quickly as possible.
Escape under fire
Gupta spent two hours in line that
day at a ticket center to reserve a place
on a commercial airline. His flight
would have left Albania last Saturday.
According to a news report, an air
craft tried to land Thursday night at
the Tirana airport, but could not be
cause of machine guns firing on the
craft. The airport was then officially
closed, and die United States made
plans to evacuate its citizens.
In the northern city of Shkodra,
“serious violence” began and build
ings were burned, Gupta said. Food
shortages became more severe, and the
cost of basic food items soared. All
government power and order had
crumbled, he said.
The day before Gupta was evacu
ated with Diane Hambley, a UNL pro
fessor of marketing who also was in
Albania, the two talked on the phone
every one or two hours. That night
there was no gunfire, and the silence
“That night was very dark and very
quiet,” Gupta said. “It had not been
that quiet. It meant that something was
The reason for the silence was un
clear, he said, but by the next mail
ing, the remains of bullets shot into
the air rained down around the two
professors as they drank coffee on a
patio outside the hotel.
By 10:30 ajn., they were called to
come to the U.S. Embassy, where a
white launch pad for helicopters had
been built and secured by U.S. Ma
rne professors were shot at while
waiting to board the helicopter that
would take the two to a U.S. warship
waiting off the Albanian coast, he said.
They sought refuge behind a wall
while surrounding Marines fired back
in the direction the bullets came from.
The Marines then hustled the pro
fessors and other Americans into the
helicopter, Gupta said. From then on,
the trip home went smoothly. The only
shock came when a woman was shot
in the shoulder while waiting for an
other helicopter, and was brought onto
the ship wounded.
That shooting caused a delay in the
helicopter evacuation of about 2,000
Americans, he said.
But by that afternoon, the profes
sors were taken by a larger helicopter
to the small Italian coastal village of
Brindisi. The village was charming to
the professors, who were tired, but not
too tired to appreciate real Italian food
that night and fresh-squeezed orange
juice the next morning.
A hero’s welcome
Gupta returned to Lincoln Sunday
night, and was greeted by his two sons,
friends and a host of television cam
eras and reporters at the Lincoln Mu
“I don’t want to be a celebrity,”
Gupta said. “I just want to go back and
do my work.”
Gupta said he was concerned that
theAlbanian president would not step
down, and would continue to let his
country fall to ruin.
“If he does not resign, the condi
tion in Albania will get worse,” he
And the damage to the country’s i
fragile economy could deter foreign
investment for years, he said.
Gupta said he wants to return be- >
cause he thought it was important to
help teach Albanians to create and
understand a strong market economy.
He said he hoped other Americans
would not forget that Albanians are
good, hard-working people and
“We have to help that country get
back on its feet,” Gupta said. “It’s a
Police officer dragged 45 feet by car
By Matthew Waite
^ Senior Reporter
A Lincoln police officer suffered
minor injuries when he was dragged
more than 45 feet by a man trying to
flee arrest early Tuesday morning.
Officer Edward Simpson tried to
stop 22-year-old Clarence Barnes from
driving away from where he was
pulled over on a traffic stop. Simpson
reached into Barnes* car and held on
as Barnes drove away.
In his report, Simpson estimated
he was dragged 45 to 50 feet at speeds
up to 20 mph before he could no
longer hold on, Sgt. Ann Heermann
said. He then let go, falling to the
Simpson was treated and released
from Lincoln General Hospital for in
juries to his right elbow.
^ The incident started when Officer
Leroy Armen Dariz pulled Barnes
over at 13th and G Streets about 1 ajn.
Heermann described the event:
Dariz was checking Barnes'
driver's license status when Barnes
jumped out of his car and ran. Dariz
followed, and Barnes ended up cir
cling back to his car, where Simpson
had just arrived.
Barnes jumped into his car and
Simpson tried to stop him. When
Simpson grabbed him, Barnes started *
to drive away.
When Simpson let go, two other |
officers had arrived and took up the"
pursuit. The vehicle pursuit was short
and slow, spanning only one block,and
reaching a top speed of 25 mph.
Barnes then stopped his car at 14th
and F streets, left die car and ran. A
short foot pursuit ensued and Barnes
was soon caught and arrested.
Barnes was booked for driving on
a suspended license, failure to com
ply with a lawful order and felony as
sault of a police officer.
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