Journalist whose own mother died in Afghanistan maintains connection with AP’s Kathy Gannon

The Washington Post

On Friday, freelance writer Tracee Herbaugh wrote about the death of her mother for The Washington Post. Sharon Herbaugh, an Associated Press bureau chief, died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 1993. Herbaugh wrote about learning of the April 4 shooting of two AP staff in Afghanistan. Photographer Anja Niedringhaus died in that shooting, and reporter Kathy Gannon was injured.

Hearing of the attack on Kathy, who was seriously wounded and remains hospitalized in Germany, felt like my life had come full circle in a single moment. In 1993, my mother, Sharon Herbaugh, was the first woman bureau chief for the Associated Press to die while on assignment. In the days following the crash, the phone at my grandparents’ home in Colorado rang nonstop with calls from State Department officials, friends and journalists from all over the world. Kathy took charge of maintaining communication between my family and the AP. She also oversaw the return of Sharon’s body back home, to a farming town on the dusty plains of southeast Colorado.

Gannon has been hospitalized in Germany since the shooting.

“Kathy continues to undergo hospital treatment as part of her recovery,” Paul Colford, director of AP Media Relations, told Poynter in an e-mail.

In her story, Herbaugh wrote about her own complicated relationship with her mother, becoming a journalist herself, and her continuing relationship with Gannon.

In the two decades that have followed Sharon’s death, Kathy has maintained a regular presence in my life. I exchanged e-mails with her only two days before she was attacked on the eve of Afghanistan’s elections. Much of what I know about my mother I’ve learned from Kathy. And she was often a source of support as my grandmother and I navigated the grieving process.

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