The Story Behind the Pictures

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?”

CARE International’s Frozan Rahmani in her Kabul office.

Click here to see the entire photo series.

24 comments on “The Story Behind the Pictures

  1. I saw your pics this morning on FB and was very touched by the sentiment considering everything these people go through on a daily basis. Then I read the comments from people saying they are fake or photoshopped or orchestrated in some way. So I came back to the site to see if I could find some clarification and landed on this page. Thanks so much for telling your story behind these pics for those people out there who have such a hard time in believing in the inherent goodness in ALL humans beings.

    • Exact same thing, except I didn’t come looking for this. Thanks Bat Country. I’m so glad to see I wasn’t wrong thinking those ‘shoppers were in fact cynical doubters with no faith in humankind. Very glad to see this story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. A touching recounting, the introduction of something wholly positive into something terribly negative. This is the answer to terrorism. Thank you for not being blinded or blocked by fear, but for moving forward toward hope, even in the crisis moment. You remind us all that there is compassion and love all around us, even if the headlines are screaming otherwise. Safe travels home. I know your reunion with your husband and child will be significant.

  3. Thanks for this Beth – a friend posted on facebook and I’m re-posting. I was in Ramallah, West Bank at the time of the 9/11 attacks. I encountered the same outpouring of empathy from Palestinians for Americans at that time.

    I’m not American, but I am a runner and the Boston bombings really upset me also.

    warmest wishes

  4. The most heartfelt thank you from our family who loves (and used to live in) Boston and loves (and used to live and work in) Afghanistan. Our eldest daughter and son-in-law are still working in Kabul. We cherish the friendships with our Afghan friends and yearn for peace there AND in Boston!

  5. Thank you to the people of Kabul for their expressions of solidarity. In times of tragedy, we are reminded of the human commonalities we all share and we feel a special closeness with each other. May we hold on to those feelings and be guided by them.

    Monte Allen
    CARE – Boston office

  6. Thank you Beth for posting up these pics. It is bittersweet for me when I see pictures this beautiful posted and re-posted on facebook – when I see comments where people automatically think they are photoshopped, or these people could not possibly understand the sign they are holding up – it really upsets me. As much of a pessimist as I am, I believe there are good people who actually care about the well being of people in other countries (even if those countries bomb them on a regular basis). When I see people go out of their way to show a peaceful gesture such as this, it saddens me when others spit on it as their first reaction – I feel out of complete ignorance, and utter disdain for people in other countries (mainly muslim or middle-eastern decent). I thank you for your photos & story and I hope to see your documentary soon!

  7. ty to the people of Kabul, and to you for positng this. The naysayers frustrate me, too. Why can’t more peole look for the good, instead of being so negative!?

  8. Thank you so much for this story. These are the experiences and expressions that link us together as the human family. There is so much in the world that divides us, so it’s wonderful to have these words which unites our hearts.

  9. Please tell these people that their love is needed and appreciated. Please tell them we love them right back.

  10. Thank you for your pictures and the link to your story. I have posted on my facebook and others are sharing from there. I have been serving in Afghanistan for 5 years now, both as a soldier and civilian; mentoring to the Afghan Army in Communications for 4 of those years. Afghans are compassionate and generous people, your sign in its simplicity says what would be in as many Afghan’s hearts as would hear the news of Boston. Thank you. Megan

  11. Black, white, yellow…whatever…we are all people with similar feelings. The Boston tragedy speaks to us all as eveidenced by your beautiful pictures. May all people look deep within themselves, embrace their humanity and treat each other with respect and caring. Perhaps,in this way, peace will eventually reign and murderous and senseless acts will be no more.Beth, thank you for sharing.

  12. Everyone watching the news unfolding in Boston, wherever they are, of whatever nationality, religion, interests, or whatever, is suffering. But what makes it seem not so much like a sign of the hopelessness of life, but more a trigger for the unleashing of heartfelt signs of togetherness, is the sight of pictures like these. Congratulations – mabruk – on your photo series! And Khoda hafez…

  13. So touching! No matter where we live we are all human. My son was stationed in the Tani district, Khost, in 2008. He loved the spirit and determination of the Afghan people and believed with all his heart that they would one day enjoy the freedom Americans take for granted. Each phone call home he would rejoice over the victories of the week…the well restored, a child reading/enjoying school, a villager recovering from an illness. Sadly, on 1 Aug 2008, as they were responding to a report that the middle school was under attack, his life ended abruptly when his humvee hit an IED. So much potential, so much love for the people…all gone in a flash. What potential lost.

  14. Seeing this late, but I’m very touched as someone currently living in Boston who also lived in Kabul (2004-2006). Just goes to show that love can flow in many directions and is felt by all! Thanks for warming my heart and making my day.

  15. Pingback: To Boston From Kabul With Love

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  17. Pingback: My favorite links » Allison Newcomer Photography

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