Stevenage mourns a genuine heroine.

I was going to do my usual trivial update but yesterday saw an event that is infinitely more significant than the height of Stevenage’s street lights (tall as they are).

After a private ceremony in nearby Little Wymondley,  Dr Karen Woo was buried in a cemetary just outside Stevenage, the town she grew up in.

So, who is Dr Karen Woo? Karen was one of a humanitarian party of 10 killed while bringing medical aid to some of the poorest people in Afghanistan 4 weeks ago. They were ambushed, lined up in a forest and reportedly shot one by one.

Dr Karen Woo.

At first the Taliban claimed responsibility and then another group. Then the Taliban distanced themselves from the attack and vowed to find the perpetrators. Regardless of who carried out the attack, it’s pretty obvious it was cowardly in the extreme. And they’ve now deprived their own people of a team of brave medics who had so much yet to give – not to mention her friends and family of someone they referred to as ‘irreplaceable’.

She was due to marry 2 weeks ago and had just ordered her silk ballgown for the occasion.

Anyway, to put a little humanity into the statistics, here’s a link to Karen own blog, last updated 2 weeks before her untimely death:

It’s a fascinating read – but a curious experience to share in her obvious lust for life while at the same time knowing she’s no longer alive. It puts all our lives into perspective and certainly knocks this blog into a cocked hat in terms of significance.

The thing is, she would have known of the dangers, must have recognised her family’s concerns for her safety, yet she followed through on her desire to do good in the world and show the Afghan people not all Westerners shrug off civilian casualties as easily as our governments and military. In fact, her Wikipedia entry says that she gave up a lucrative post with BUPA to join the International Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Strange then to think that she was just as familiar with Lytton Way, Fairland Valley Park and the Lister Hospital as much as the Afghan province of Badakhshan.

Others have summed up her contribution more fully and eloquently elsewhere, so I’ll end this small tribute here. The motto that accompanies the Stevenage coat of arms reads, “The heart of a town lies in its people”. Stevenage can rightly be proud of Karen.

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