for Christopher Allen, in memoriam, lost to gunfire while covering the Sudan War

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Earlier this morning my father called with the very sad news that Christopher Allen, a 26-year-old war reporter, has lost his life while covering the Sudan conflict. The story is being reported across the country as well as here, in our Philadelphia Inquirer.

I'd been watching the Harvey news, terrified for that large swath of our country, for the people already lost, the land under water and siege. The very particular, very specific death of Chris entered into my swirl of sadness.

What do we do for the people who have been lost? It's a question I had already been pondering as I write my September essay for the Inquirer.

Right now, today, I simply want to share the best of Christopher, whom I met on a train while headed into Penn to teach several years ago. He impressed me at once—the intensity of his questions, the politeness of his phrasing—and soon I'd written him into Handling the Truth, the passage above, never thinking I would see him again.

Why would I see this perfect stranger again?

Later, however, I learned that Chris was the son of my father's friends. That he had graduated from Penn and moved to the theaters of conflict. That he was determined to be there, to cover the wars, to find the humanity in bloodshed. I spoke with his parents about Chris when he was gone. In the nave of a church, when he was home for a spell, I spoke with him. A few emails were sent.

He was just 26 years old, covering a war, and now he's gone. His legacy remains. Here is Chris, writing in his own words, for the Pennsylvania Gazette.

Updated to include this piece, written for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Online now and slated to run in this weekend's print edition. 


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