By ANDREA PEYSER
THE instant Diana Berger heard about the bomb,
she knew her husband wasn't coming home.
The explosion shook lower Manhattan at
lunchtime, tearing a mortal hole through Fraunces
Strange. Diana's husband, Alejandro "Alex"
Berger, had not planned to go to Fraunces that
And yet, as she pulled the car out of the driveway
of their home in Cherry Hill, N.J., on the way to
meet Alex in the city, the moment the radio
mentioned a bomb, "I knew immediately," Diana
She was six months pregnant that January day in
1975, the day she became a widow at 27, her son
On that awful afternoon, Diana had never even
heard of the FALN. But the Puerto Rican terrorist
organization, which proudly claimed responsibility
for the blast that killed Alex, was to become
permanently entwined in Diana's life, every
moment she walks the earth.
Now, 24 years later, the FALN is again ripping
open Diana's psychic wounds.
In a decision whose timing stinks of political
pandering, President Clinton has offered clemency
to 16 jailed core members of the so-called Armed
Forces of National Liberation -or FALN - a
group that has unleashed a torrent of blood and
tears on the innocent. The clemency offer has
infuriated law-enforcement officials who have lost
their limbs and eyesight combating these
For Diana, the agony is particularly exquisite.
"They were in the midst of a business meeting,"
she says of her husband and his colleagues.
"They were supposed to have lunch at the
Morgan Guaranty Trust dining room. There was a
mixup in the reservations."
Diana Berger, now 52, is a shy, private woman,
not the sort to seek publicity. This interview was
painful not only to Diana, but to me - I
experienced no joy unearthing memories Diana
would rather not share with a stranger.
Yet speak she must. "The events of [last] week
have really opened enormous wounds. It's been a
horrible, horrible week for all of us.
"How dare they say these terrorists have been
punished enough? We've been punished each day,
and will be forever."
Diana met Alex, a graduate student originally from
Uruguay, at their synagogue in 1969. "He was just
a bright, funny, athletic, good-looking individual,"
she says. Six months later, they married.
After five years, Diana, a physical therapist,
became pregnant. Alex, who graduated fourth in
his class from the prestigious Wharton business
school, was employed as a financial analyst at
Rohm and Haas, and was working toward his
When the bomb struck on Jan. 24, it not only
canceled their dreams, it flung Diana into a role
she never expected to fulfill: She had to be strong
She describes as if in a dream the day she
identified the body of her husband, who died from
massive internal injuries.
"My father-in-law had a hard time believing it was
who it was. It was his face ..." she searches for
"This is someone who always had a smile on his
face. The expression was ... different." Alex
Berger was 28.
When she gave birth to her son, Adrian, Diana's
brother accompanied her to the hospital.
The bomb killed four people immediately, and
wounded at least 50. Diana was told over the
years that no one was arrested for her husband's
murder; the jailed FALN members did not admit
to specific acts of violence.
Diana remarried in 1980, and had a daughter. Yet
Alex always remained a part of the family's life.
"All I have to do is look at my son," Diana says.
The years pass, life continues. This fall, Diana's
daughter begins college. Adrian is a chemical
engineer. Then came word of the FALN
clemency, and it was as if a bomb exploded all
over again. The FALN members remain jailed
today only because they have so far refused to
Diana has spoken repeatedly to the White House.
All she received was arrogance.
"I said, 'This organization has claimed
responsibility for acts of violence.' He [a White
House representative] replied, "In this country, we
do not have guilt by association.'
"How insulting! What about conspiracy?
"If they were stealing money, driving cars, hiding
people, providing transportation, they have to be
held accountable. These are all proud members of
Now Diana Berger Ettenson, this quiet lady, has
been flung into another role she never expected to
assume: political cynic.
It has not escaped her notice that Clinton's offer
of clemency might help his wife's Senate campaign
among Puerto Rican voters.
"There are just so many layers to this."
As tiring and painful and unpleasant as the process
can be, Diana will continue talking until someone
in authority chooses to listen.
Only when she's alone does she let her feelings
"I scream a lot," she confides.
"I never let anyone see what is bothering me. But I
feel so strongly about this."