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PHC Graduate Reports from Afghanistan's Front Lines

September 25th, 2012

By Timothy Hrushka

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

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Timothy Hrushka

The following story was written by Tim Hrushka, who graduated from PHC in 2011. He works for a private defense contractor in Afghanistan and wrote this account a few hours after the bombing incident, below. All of the Afghani kids in the area know Tim by name, and he often collects juice boxes and food from the cafeteria to hand out to them.

Sept 8, 2012

A blast. The third I’ve heard but second I’ve felt since I arrived in Afghanistan six months ago.

I’m listening to Jimmy Eat World’s “Splash, Twist and Turn.” I cast a frowning tech-writer’s glance at the track; it lacks a comma. I turn back to editing an embed report from up north. It’s a laborious 10-page piece – some sort of verbal disentanglement puzzle.

I’m sliding around words attempting to form a sentence of a sizable cluster of words when I feel the blast. I feel it inside me. It comes from my right. I hear headphones fall to the desk and an expletive slip from my mouth as I jump up from my chair. I know this sound. I’ve heard it before.

I don’t know how distanced we are from the explosion’s “epicenter,” but it feels close. Moments later a balanced female voice sounds off from the loudspeakers placed around the base. She tells us there’s been an attack and we need to stay put.

Facts flow liberally over the next 20 minutes.
“They attacked the front gate with a VBIED.”
“It’s Masood day; they attacked the Masood foundation across the street.”
“A 28 year old suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into a building right outside.”
“It’s a child suicide bomber.”

Back in the office, we find the initial Twitter and Al Jazera reports as varied and self-contradicting as the “personal” accounts circulating in the courtyard. The Al Jazera reporter ignores the scrolling banner below him contradicting what he’s saying. (He must be standing just a couple hundred yards from us on the other side of the wall.)

 

Hrushka's photo of explosion aftermath.

 

In the end, it is a child bomber.

He is—was—10 to 12 years old they say here. Some news outlets state the bomber was 16, but you don’t know what to believe. Statistics on these things are skewed. Either way, he was young. Did he know what he was doing? Was he told that story that his vest would explode outwards leaving him unharmed? Was he drugged up? Was he nervously playing with the detonator? Quite possibly: he left this world at an unpresuming area of the street. Not a single Coalition Force member was harmed. Just about ten Afghans or so – most of them little kids apparently. The “hawker” children on that street… Will Samir ever try to sell me another bracelet, Bashir demand that I get him a “green juice,” or cute little Parawana beg me to buy another scarf from her? I hope so, but I doubt it.

…The dust clears: Assessment after a few days.

According to eyewitnesses, an older Afghan on a motorcycle dropped off the boy—who indeed was 10-12. The child bomber wore a hanging a loop of bracelets from his arm to blend in with the other children. Supposedly, he stood waiting for American soldiers to come by.

Another child claims he asked the bomber practice cricket with him, but the bomber, listening to music on his earphones and wearing a glazed look, was unresponsive. Fortunately, this witness wandered along down the street distancing himself before witnessing the end. In a confrontation with another boy—ostensibly over “selling turf”—the bomber detonated himself.

No Coalition Forces were injured, but reports say six street children were killed and several others hospitalized. Taliban claimed responsibility.