Journalism Professor Takes Action After Close Call with Suicide Bombers in Afghanistan

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

When the quiet town where she is a guest lecturer became a war zone before her eyes, Assistant Professor Diane Guerrazzi snapped into action.

She grabbed her video and still cameras, shooting enough images to file this story from the scene for Bay Area TV news station KTVU (click here to view the story).

Guerrazzi is in Herat on a $1.2 million federal grant to train Afghan professors to teach modern journalism. She also shared her close call in an email to San Jose State:

“It’s been quite a day here. Just as my classes ended at noon, a pair of suicide bombings and a gunfight turned the city inside out. Normally ‘peaceful’ Herat is suddenly a war zone.

“One bombing took place at the Provincial Reconstruction Team, near the university. Several of my ‘students’ (professors) live there and rushed home, worried about their small children being watched by relatives. But I have just confirmed, thankfully, that their families and homes are safe. My driver also lives in the area and was taking a nap when the first blast occurred. It blew out all the windows in his house.

“Another bombing took place near the transport ministry. The death toll is at least four, with dozens wounded.

“Coincidentally, a representative of the U.S. Embassy was spending the day with me to observe my classes, so we were on the radar of rescuers. Soon after the bombing, an armored truck with a gunner in the back pulled up to our building on campus to speed us off to the U.S. Consulate. I spent about six hours there watching smoke rise over the bombing areas.  A gunfight on the ground continued for hours, with suspected accomplices to the bombings holed up in a house.

“This evening, embassy officials offered to let me stay at Camp Stone, the military base outside Herat. It was only a suggestion, not an order. But it was my choice to go back to the hotel, where the security has been stepped up to an impressive degree, outside and in. I even have an armed guard stationed by my door.

“The Embassy advises me not to go to the university tomorrow and possibly for a few more days after that, since incidents like these can spark anti-American protests. Depending on how things develop, I may have to leave the country early.

“I’m fine, so please don’t worry about me!”