Douglas High grad who was in Morocco during bombings decides to go back
Douglas High School class of ’93 graduate Natellie Yurtinus was far from home when several nearly simultaneous bomb attacks struck the Moroccan coastal city of Casablanca. But she wasn’t far from the blasts.
“A few of my friends and I were at a Spanish restaurant (in Casablanca),” she said. “A maitre d’ at the restaurant told us what happened — he said there were two bombs.”
Over the next 24 hours, they learned there were actually five bombs, which killed 31 bystanders and 12 suicide attackers and injured more than 100 people.
“It was sort of a mix of suicide bombers and car bombers,” she said. “They hit the Belgian consulate, a Jewish community center, the Spanish embassy, a Spanish restaurant, and then some guy accidentally blew himself up in a Jewish cemetery. I think he was going someplace else.”
Yurtinus, 28, was in Morocco teaching computer classes through a New Jersey company, International Schools Services.
She teaches Web site design, e-mail, word processing — everything but programming.
“You name it, I teach,” she said.
She had signed a two-year contract, but re-evaluated her plan after the attack.
“In June, I actually told my director I didn’t want to return because I didn’t feel safe,” she said. Director Anne Osman accepted her decision. But now Yurtinus has changed her mind.
“I decided to do another year. I just figure my friends are there so I’ll go back and finish my contract.”
“I always wanted to teach over seas,” she said.
She finished packing at her dad’s house off Johnson Lane and boarded a plane Friday for Frankfurt, where she’ll catch a connecting flight to Casablanca.
“Safety has always been in the back of my mind because it’s a mostly Muslim country, but Morocco is a really nice place.”
She said the best thing about Morocco is the people.
“I really like the people — they’re very friendly,” she said. “Of course they speak mostly French and Arabic so sometimes I have problems communicating.”
Another good thing about Morocco is the food.
Her favorite dishes are herrera soup and “tajine” — vegetables with potatoes and either chicken or beef.
But these thing were not on her mind after the the suicide bombers struck.
“My apartment complex is probably four to six blocks from the area of the bombings,” she said. Luckily, she was away at the time. Her school acted fast with a “phone tree” communication network to ensure everyone’s safety. After they all called their parents, the group of teachers left town.
“It was hard to get a taxi because the streets were just empty; there was nobody out. We spent the night in a town called Cil, I can’t really say we slept.”
She said the next day there were lots of police in the area of the five blasts, and everything was cordoned off.
“It was quite gruesome — the pictures they showed on TV.”
The director of her institute, the Casablanca American School, decided to cancel classes for a few days, telling the teachers to get out of town and lay low.
Yurtinus and three friends went to a lake outside of Marrakesh and stayed in a little hotel.
“We just basically got out of civilization and vegged,” she said.
After the semester ended June 13, she traveled around the Czech Republic, Austria, Budapest and France for a month before coming home.
Yurtinus’ family is parents John and Jaydene and siblings Audrey, 30; Jessica, 24; Elizabeth, 23; John, 21; Corey, 19; and half brother William, 3 1/2.
Moroccan authorities have charged about 100 people in connection with the bombings. Most are Moroccan, but authorities believe the attacks were by an international Muslim extremist network.