Hearing a suicide car bomb less than 1/4 mile away

On Oct 12, 2014 at 7am I was getting ready for work here in Kabul, and heard a huge explosion. I immediately went to my window and saw a plume of smoke rising. I knew right away that it had to be a bomb of some sort, even though I’d never heard a bomb blast in my life.

A few minutes later I discovered it was a suicide bomber on one of Kabul’s main roads that had driven directly into a foreign military convoy.

I travel that road at least two times a day for my work commute, so I know precisely where the blast occurred. I literally drove on that exact stretch of road the previous evening.

At least one person died and multiple folks were injured. The bomb was less than ¼ mile away from where I’m staying. Security told me that we had to wait an extra half-hour before we left to drive to work, in order for the traffic to thin out.

Now I know what a bomb sounds like. I’ll never forget it.

It’s strange to be in a place that is on the news so often and yet in day-to-day interactions and routines feels totally normal. I work in a Western style office, where most people can speak English (they mostly speak Pashto or Dari) and the Chief of Party (program head) is an expat US citizen.

But I’ve been told many times by folks working here, either for NGOs or as security contractors, complacency is dangerous. Not that I had become complacent, but driving on the roads every day seemed routine, beyond the security and bad traffic.

The blast today was a sober reminder that Kabul and Afghanistan as a whole remains as unstable as ever and quite unsafe.

Mostly though, I’m thinking about the Afghan people, who live with this overhanging specter of daily violence. It’s heartbreaking. This is a country that for decades has been without stability or cohesion, which I’m sure affects the  nation’s collective psyche.

People say, Kabul is ‘safer’ than rural areas, but what does that really mean? A suicide attack only once every 10 days, as compared to every other one?

As I came into work, the local Afghan staff asked me if I had heard the blast, I was a little visibly shaken and they picked up on it immediately. But they didn’t bat an eye, it was completely ‘normal’ for them to know that something so devastating happened. It’s a weekly occurrence and in a sense they have become desensitized to it.


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