|John in his always playful spirit, while assessing plants in the Terezayi District Center on February 19th, 2011.|
This week's update was orginally planned to outline another update on the Future Farmers of Afghanistan project. Recently, the Governor of Khowst Province- Abdul Jamar Naeemi, visited Shaikh Zayed University to , but after receiving an email last night from a good friend's widow- the Governor's update will have to wait...
This past February in my Rolling Out the Red Carpet post, I mentioned a gentleman named John Harrington who came to work with our team through his work with the Afghan Water Agriculture and Technology Transfer (AWATT) program.
Just as I was preparing to head out of the office yesterday, my Outlook new email notifier popped up. The message was sent from a woman's address that my brain did not recognize, but the subject line featured a familiar name that struck a chord in my heart. Holding my breath, I left-clicked on the email box fearing the worst...
I'm not certain exactly how long it took to read the few sentences contained in that email, but I will say that it felt like time stood still as my entire body started to absorb the news I feared most.
Tragically, while riding his bicycle home from work on Monday afternoon, John Harrington was killed in an accident. In the email, sent from his wife whom I've never met, she explains "He was biking home from work and was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was hit by a car. "
|One of the Guys|
John first visited our team in late January, just several days after I departed FOB Salerno for my short trip back to the States. During his time here with the 3-19th ADT, John literally wrote the book on our forestry initiatives. As no organic member of our team had any background in forestry, John's wealth of knowledge was welcomed with gracious arms.
As I returned in mid-February, I have to say I was shocked by the extremely kind words so many members of our team used to describe John. I guess you could say that I was guilty of judging a book by it's cover when I first saw John's picture (wearing a flannel shirt, propped up against a giant tree with one hand on his dog) attached to his bio and curriculum vitae. Civilians working in development often get a bad reputation (many deserve it) but John was quite the exception.
John made a second trip to FOB Salerno on February 16th; it was during this visit that I was finally able to meet the man so many had raved about. Within minutes, I immediately understood why so many were attracted to his outgoing, magnetic personality. In many cases, "PhD" would better stand for "Pile it Higher and Deeper", but this could not be father than the truth for John.
Under John's guidance that third week of February, we received our first shipment of trees. If I recall correctly; 4,000 trees in total made the journey onto the 3-19th ADT's demonstration farm from their original nursery in Jalabad.
Captain Randy Cuyler, the annoited "Tree-Man" for our team, had a chance to really get to know John as they worked hand-in-hand to outline our programs. Randy and his wife had actually been planning a trip to visit with John in his northern New Mexico home this fall.
I guess you could kind of compare the process of "getting to know" somebody here on FOB Salerno to speed dating. With considerably few other distractions, you really can get to know a person quite well in just a few short days. Before we'd even finished lunch on John's first day here, he and I had already established our common bond- running.
|The Johnny Appleseed of Khowst Province|
John was what many might refer to as a freak of nature, an ultra-marathoner. Within days of returning back to the States this spring, John participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon. Of the countless stories he told, one in particular comes to mind when I think of his extraordinary endurance. Supposedly, while undergoing a stress test during a routine doctor's physical, John was instructed to climb aboard a treadmill. John claimed he had told his doctor of his dedicated cardio routine, but apparently nobody had ever seen the treadmill maxed out on both speed and elevation- twenty minutes into the test, with such little increase in heart rate. By the time John finished the test (his doctor pulled the plug), seven cardiologists had gathered in the testing room to sneak a peak at this phenomenon.