Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Remembering Nicole

I've received news today that a friend of mine from D.C. was murdered in Afghanistan. I met Nicole Dial in the summer of 2006. It was a difficult time for me—many of my friends were leaving D.C. to go on to grad school, and I was breaking up with my boyfriend of three years. It felt like I was starting out anew in D.C., despite having lived there for three years at that point.

There is a bar called Wonderland in Columbia Heights, a developing/gentrifying neighborhood in D.C. In 2006, Wonderland was this cool, unknown dive bar frequented mostly by the neighborhood crowd. Nicole was there for "Balkan music night," which involved lots of dancing in circles. We had fun folk-dancing together, and I sought her out at an Irish band's concert at Fado in Chinatown the next week. Thus began our friendship. She helped me re-discover D.C.

Nicole was a save-the-world type. In D.C., she was working on child soldier projects. Trying to prevent the enlistment of children into third-world militaries, and rehabilitate children scarred by war. I often felt that my professional pursuits were so frivolous by comparison. Nicole was always weighed down by the ills of the world, and the desire to make it a better place. I admired her for that, but also wished she could let go of it sometimes and enjoy the privileged life we had in the States.

That was not her way though. She was dissatisfied with D.C. and wanted to be doing more to change the world. And as a Trinidadian-born American, she had the desire for international living in her blood. She traveled often-- to Liberia, for work; to Canada, for conferences; to Tibet, with her mother... We had vague plans to go hiking in Tibet together, but those plans will never come to fruition.

She found an opportunity to work abroad and moved to Indonesia last year. We were in infrequent communication-- there were monsoon rains on her 31st birthday on February 14th. (The year before, D.C. nearly shut down on her 30th birthday due to a good amount of snow, though a bunch of us managed to find an open bar on U Street. We joked about nasty weather being a necessity for her birth celebration.) In June, she sent me an e-mail saying she had moved to Kabul to work for the International Rescue Committee.

I was concerned when I got that e-mail, with the continuing instability and violence in Afghanistan. But I thought she would manage to steer clear of the violence. She was an aid worker. Why would anyone target her? I don't know why, but they did: "Three aid workers killed in Afghan attack."

I keep thinking about Nicole-- remembering the times we spent together, and imagining her life and death in Afghanistan. The photos of the coffins that accompany the articles online haunt me. I know that what is left of Nicole is in one of those wooden boxes, and that it's a symbol for an online reader of the terrible violence of Afghanistan. But for me, it's my friend. The girl with whom I went on walking tours of D.C. The girl that I helped move from Mt. Pleasant to Dupont Circle on a snowy day. The girl with whom I watched the season finale of Grey's Anatomy, before we decided that the show had turned too horrible to watch.

Her death is too horrible. And senseless. She wanted to save the world, but she was in a country with some people who don't want to be saved.


Sarah said...

What you wrote was beautiful. Thank you. She will be deeply missed.
*Sarah Radin*

Cynthia Minjarez said...

You said that so well! She was truely a beautiful woman! This world needs more people like her. She'll be missed tremendously!!!
Cynthia Minjarez

David B. said...

I'm deeply sorry to learn of your loss. It sounds like Nicole was a truly remarkable and courageous individual.

Anonymous said...

I am so so sorry Kash... this memorial is so moving, I can imagine how proud Nicole would be...


NASPAA Blog said...

I am so very sorry. Thank you for your story about Nicole. Scott Talan

Thomas said...

Kashmir...Your heartfelt tribute to Nicole deeply moved me. I am so sorry that such a beautiful soul is gone. I suppose the memories of yourself and the many she touched with her spirit shall be of some comfort to those who loved her. My heart goes out to all of them.....Thank you for sharing.....daddy