March 2002: Dad and I are riding in a ragged Land Cruiser in the Pashtun Tribal Area of Southwest Pakistan. We pull into the entry of Mohammen Khel refugee camp which sits in a moonscape between mountain tops. Looking across the rocky ground we see Afghanistan, just 2km away, and a single, dusty road to Kandahar.
We are there to provide humanitarian aid, food, blankets, and heating/cooking stoves to Afghan refugees who have fled the religious tyranny of the Taliban and al Qaeda. As we pull up to our 9 trucks, parked along the path, we look in horror at a sign on the side of one truck. “World Compassion, USA, Humanitarian Aid”.
Shouting (in Pashtun) ensued and then a hail of rocks began to descend from all sides. We jumped in our vehicles and drove straight through camp until the road found its end in the mouth of an adobe fort-like structure.
We had only just caught our collective breathes when another volley of rocks filled the sky. Refugees began scaling the walls. Shots were fired over our heads. We were being attacked and there was blood lust in their eyes.
As I lifted my head from between my knees in the backseat, I began yelling to the young guard next to me to open fire. I reached across his lap, flung the door open, and pushed him out the door ordering him to shoot over their heads to scare them back.
Soon the stoning stopped as the air was filled with the familiar sound of continued firing from the Kalashnikov rifles. The refugees scurried away off the walls. Sometimes, people will only listen to a firm rebuke. (We later learned that al Qaeda and Taliban fighters had infiltrated the camp, were fully armed, and were behind our attack).
We were finally able to call in the local militia from my satellite phone and 45 minutes later, they arrived, like the cavalry in an old John Wayne flick. At that moment, someone grabbed a camera and took this picture of dad and me in front of a damaged Lorie. The moment after the shutter snapped, dad turned, smiled at me and said, “Isn’t this great? You know we must be doing something right when we face this kind of attack.” That was dad.