NJ native killed in Mali was devoted mom, ‘fighter for the greater good’
Family, friends and top government officials joined together Saturday to mourn New Jersey native Anita Ashok Datar, 41, who was killed Friday morning in a terrorist attack in Bamako, Mali.
Datar, a senior technical adviser at an international development company, was one of at least 20 people killed at the Bamako hotel, according to a statement issued by the U.S. State Department. She left behind a young son.
Among those mourning her death was former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"I knew Anita as the loving mother of a wonderful 7-year old boy and the former partner of David Garten, one of my senior policy advisers in the Senate," Clinton said in a statement. "My prayers are with the Datar and Garten families, especially Anita and David's son. My heart breaks, thinking of the burden he will now bear on his small shoulders and the courage he will have to show in the days ahead."
Family and friends remembered Datar, a Rutgers University graduate and former Peace Corps volunteer, as a generous person and a passionate advocate for the poor.
“Anita was always smiling and always had an encouraging word for everyone she came in contact with,” said Jen Kamin Underwood, Datar’s former classmate from Mount Olive High School, via email. “It’s been said (Mr. Rogers, I think) that whenever there’s a crisis, you should look for the helpers. That is where you will find the good in the world. Anita was a helper and many people are better off for having known her, myself included.”
“We’re all in shock,” said longtime friend, Tara Elms Henderson of Budd Lake. “I want the world to know the kind of person she was. Even in high school, we knew she was going to do great things.”
Henderson said a memorial is currently being organized at Mount Olive High School for Datar, a 1991 graduate. On Henderson’s Facebook page she wrote, “Anita lived her life [as] an amazing journey. ... She was a champion; a fighter for the greater good. She was pure, unbridled passion for humanity. She was the epitome of love and beauty and good and grace.”
Datar’s family described her as a loving mother who devoted her life to making the world a better place.
"Everything she did in her life she did to help others — as a mother, public health expert, daughter, sister and friend," said the family in a statement released through the State Department. "And while we are angry and saddened that she has been killed, we know that she would want to promote education and healthcare to prevent violence and poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Gov. Chris Christie expressed condolences to Datar’s family and friends on Twitter.
Mount Olive Mayor Rob Greenbaum said that in the days to come, the town would pay tribute to Datar’s life.
“We’ll find a way to recognize her,” he said. “She gave her life for our way of life.”