Doctor Killed In Afghanistan Was Driven To Stay

A follow-up to our post from yesterday about eye doctor Tom Little and other aid workers who were murdered in Afghanistan sometime in the past few days:

Tom Little, in blue shirt, in Afghanistan.

In this undated photo released by David L. Evans, Tom Little, top center in blue shirt with baseball cap, optometrist and team leader with the International Assistance Mission, joins villagers and other team members in Afghanistan. Anonymous/David L. Evans/AP hide caption

toggle caption Anonymous/David L. Evans/AP

NPR's Michael Sullivan profiled Little for Morning Edition in 2003. As Lynn Neary said in the introduction to Michael's report, Little was among a small number of Americans who had been in Afghanistan "for decades working with international aid agencies and other non-governmental organizations. They're dedicated to making life better for the Afghan people: clean water, decent health care."

We'll post the full audio of Michael's report here:

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

2003 NPR profile of Tom Little

But it's also worth zeroing in on one brief section of the report. It's Little talking about why he, his wife and their three daughters stayed in Afghanistan for most of the past 30 years despite threats to their lives.

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tom Little on staying in Afghanistan

"We've come ... to identify in some small sense with the Afghan people," Little says, "and for us ... just to leave when they are not able to leave — just because we're afraid — it seemed dishonest and shameful almost":

Dr. Thomas Grams.

In this Aug. 2009 photo provided by Tim Grams, Dr. Thomas Grams kayaks on Sheridan Lake near Cordova, Alaska. Anonymous/Tim Grams hide caption

toggle caption Anonymous/Tim Grams

Ten people in all were executed as they returned to Kabul from a medical aid mission in northeastern Afghanistan. Six were Americans, one was German, another was British and two were Afghans. The Taliban has claimed responsibility. But it's also possible that robbery was the motive.

The Denver Post today fills in some of the biographical details of 51-year-old Durango, Colo., dentist Tom Grams, who was among the victims. It writes that "friends and family on Sunday described slain (Grams) as a rare individual who found a way to combine his two great passions: helping others and living an adventurous life in far-flung reaches of the globe."

The Associated Press reports that 32-year-old Cheryl Beckett of Knoxville, Tenn., had been in Afghanistan for six years and "specialized in nutritional gardening and mother-child health."

Watch for more stories about the work the victims were doing in coming days.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from