Yesterday morning, scrolling down my Facebook page, I saw the same updates that I always do – cats doing funny things, links to old school music videos, an increasing number of kids, and of course, photos of food. I was stopped cold when I saw the caption of a friend/the DiploMan’s close colleague. She had lost a friend in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. A quick assumption was later confirmed – Anne Smedinghoff, killed while on her way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat, was indeed among our wide yet deeply interconnected circle of Foreign Service friends.
Suddenly cats doing funny things, links to old school music videos, an increasing number of kids, and photos of food seemed so trivial.
One day and multiple news accounts later, I’ve read up more about the news and about Anne, who was only 25. Death seems so much more arresting and unimaginable at such an age. Anne was in the DiploMan’s A-100 class, which is sort of like a Freshman-class of sorts when you enter the Foreign service. For six weeks, about 80 U.S. citizens from all walks of life learn not only about how to represent the US government abroad but also about each other. Picture lots of class time, but many more dinners, retreats, weekends, lots of happy hours, and even more congratulatory hugs and happy high-fives when you learn where everyone is going to their first post. Anne was one of the youngest in the class, a fresh-out-of-college graduate. Seeing her picture today, I jog my memory and there is faint recollection of meeting her – a soft-spoken yet strong-willed young woman, perhaps so soft-spoken because she was still an adolescent suddenly thrown into circles of adulthood – our crude jokes, our meticulously curated dinner parties, our already jaded views on our 20’s, our somewhat hopeless view of saving the world, of the government, of the opposite sex, of getting older, of…well, of everything.
Maybe I met her, maybe I didn’t. This blog puts my feelings into words; she may have been someone we all knew, representing so much youth and so much enthusiasm in serving our country overseas:
What I am certain I recognized was the smile, the aura of the under-30 crowd, the disarming ordinariness (as opposed to banality) and eagerness of our newest public servants. That aura seems to me the norm now at Foggy Bottom, and in much of the country, and it’s probably a sign of my age as much as an indication of the lure of Washington itself.
Dinner last night was a little less chatty than usual, and we got up a little earlier this morning than on typical Sunday mornings. I can’t help but worry about my friends overseas, our future posts, and most of all my DiploMan, who is sitting in his chair right now reading the New York Times and jamming to his one of his favorite Spotify stations. We are normal people, doing normal work, maybe moving around a little more than the Average American, taking a few more trips to exotic locations than the Average American, but always acting with our best intentions – like delivering books to new schools in war-ravaged nations.
Read more about the news in the NYTimes here, a statement from Secretary Kerry here, and on one of my favorite FS blogs, here. There’s also a heartbreaking statement from the Smedinghoff family, here. The bomber also claimed the lives of three American soldiers, one other civilians, and three Afghans. None of these killed are any less important than our friend Anne.