Photos: To Boston, From Kabul, With Love

Everyday Afghans express their sympathy.
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Well-wishers leave a shirt at a make-shift memorial on Boylston Street a day after two explosions hit the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2013. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

When I left Boston for Afghanistan nearly 6 weeks ago, it was with some trepidation--the first I've felt despite several filming trips here. The Afghanistan I'm visiting this spring is not the same as the country I traveled to in 2001 and 2002, or 2006 and 2009; it has experienced a decade of war, and I've seen firsthand how the outlook has changed 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. I'm safe," I wrote to family and friends, assuring them that I was far from the violence. But then I grabbed my phone off the bedside table the other day and thought I was re-reading one of my own texts: "We're ok. And everyone we know is safe." It was a message from my husband, Dennis, assuring me that he and our 5-year-old daughter were fine. Boston. Attacked. It was--and still is--hard to comprehend. Like so many others, I have experienced the pure joy--and pain--of crossing the Boston Marathon finish line, and I felt heartbroken for the victims and my city. I felt a deep sense of longing to be home.

I decided I wanted to send some love from 6,500 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 as I talked to people here about what had happened (many had heard the news), I saw the pain in their faces. They said "I'm so sorry," with that slow, defining head shake that doesn't need another word of explanation; it says, "I understand."

Frozan Rahmani, a program officer for CARE International, told me, "Every time I hear about attacks happening, 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?"

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Beth Murphy is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and the founder of Boston-based Principle Pictures production company. She is currently in Afghanistan filming What Tomorrow Brings, a documentary shot inside The Zabuli School, the first girls’ school in a remote Afghani village.

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