This is the story behind my photo series – To Boston. From Kabul. With Love.
When I left Boston for Afghanistan nearly 6 weeks ago, it was with some trepidation – the first I’ve felt after several filming trips here. Why now? Perhaps because the Afghanistan I’m visiting this Spring is not the same as the country I traveled to in 2001/2002, 2006 and 2009. It has experienced a decade of war, and I’ve seen firsthand how the outlook has changed among so many — from one of cautious hope for a better future to one of grim acceptance that this last painful, protracted period of violence and political upheaval may still not yield freedom from oppression in this country.
Just last week I woke up to frantic emails and texts from home after the worst insurgent attack in the country in over a decade. “Yes, I’m fine. Safe.” I wrote to family and friends, assuring them that I was far from the violence. Yesterday, when I grabbed my phone off the bedside table, I thought I was re-reading one of my own texts: “We’re ok. And everyone we know is safe.” But instead it was a message from my husband, Dennis, assuring me that he and our 5-year-old daughter were fine. Boston. Attacked. It was – still is – hard to comprehend. Like countless others, I have experienced the pure joy – and pain – of crossing the Boston Marathon finish line, and I felt heartbroken for the victims and for our little city. I also felt a deep sense of longing to be home.
I decided I wanted to send some love from 6500 miles away. Before leaving the house, I made the sign, “To Boston. From Kabul. With Love.” and planned to take one picture of me holding it. But my intent changed as I talked to people here about what had happened – many had heard the news – and I saw the pain in their faces, and reminders of their own hardships. They said, “I’m so sorry,” with that defining head shake that doesn’t need another word of explanation; it says, “I understand.”
My day was different than others here. I’m in Afghanistan filming WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS, a new documentary focused on the very first girls’ school in a very conservative village. But instead of going to the school, I was going to spend the day with CARE International to help evaluate a savings and loan program for a friend who helps to fund it. It was at CARE’s Kabul Headquarters that my deepest conversations about our common humanity began as I listened to good and innocent people express the heartache that all us feel when other good and innocent people are suffering.
Frozan Rahmani, a program officer for CARE International, was especially emotional. “Every time I hear about attacks happening,” she said, “whether it’s in the United States, Pakistan, England or here, I became too sad. All those people had hopes and dreams for their futures. Their parents had hopes and dreams for their futures. It doesn’t matter that we experience this more often here. No one should experience any of it ever. It’s always the innocent who suffer.”
She paused. “I wish there was something I could do.”
“There is,” I said. “Would you be willing to hold this sign to send a little love from Kabul?”