When I left Boston for Afghanistan nearly two months 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 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 might still not yield freedom from oppression in this country.
Just days before the April 15 Boston bombings, I woke up to frantic emails and texts from home after the worst insurgent attack in the country in over a decade. I wrote to family and friends, assuring them that I was far from the violence. "Yes, I'm fine. Safe."
The morning after the bombings, 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 on their faces, 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."
Beth Murphy is a documentary filmmaker, author, and the founder of the film production company Principle Pictures. She is currently on her fourth trip to Afghanistan, where she is filming What Tomorrow Brings, a documentary about the very first girl's school in a conservative village.