Wildfires rage throughout the summer in the Southwest, but the one that swept through Yarnell, Arizona, in late June was different. Sean Flynn explains how a routine assignment resulted in the greatest loss of firefighters since 9/11.
Two things happened in Boston on Marathon Monday. One was a violent crime and an act of terror. The other? Its opposite. A superhuman effort to help those injured—for many, it was an automatic impulse to rush into the chaos—and a partly improvised, near miraculous fight to save lives and limbs. Sean Flynn recounts the harrowing, heroic minutes when those two worlds collided:
It’s April 15. Five days earlier, a report from the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, which is funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security, warned that the finish line could be bombed. That was the analytical equivalent of telling Evans the sky is blue. Boston police have always known that the middle blocks of Boylston Street could be a target, though it is assumed the most likely moment would be when the elites are loping in. There’s always a potential for someone to try to make a name for himself, Evans knows. And if you’re gonna disrupt a marathon, you’re gonna disrupt the lead runners. So when those lead runners approach, cops on motorcycles and bicycles and foot line Boylston from Massachusetts Avenue all the way to Dartmouth, backs to the course, watching. Make sure we really pay attention to the crowds, the cops are all told.
And the cops always do. The marathon has been run for 116 years without a major security incident, and there’s no reason to suggest the 117th will be any different.
For six hours on September 11, the American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, stood siege. When the attack was over, J. Christopher Stevens's body was pulled from the wreckage—the first U.S. ambassador killed by militants in over thirty years. Since then, his death has been politicized and the details of the attack distorted. Sean Flynn straightens out the story of Stevens’s last days in Libya—and reveals the true believer we lost that day:
"Chris was the single most important voice," says Jeffrey D. Feltman, who at the time was the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. "That didn’t mean he was the only voice, and it didn’t mean everything he said was acted on. But his was the single most important voice."
What made Stevens good at his job was his ability to get people to trust him. That is not something that can be faked: It is possible to manipulate people into confiding in you, of course, but it is not sustainable, especially for an outsider in a foreign land. “He understood,” says Tek, “that you have to express empathy in a genuine way. And he defied the stereotype of an American diplomat who was equal parts arrogant and ignorant. He was honest and human.
"To me," Tek says, "he was the kind of diplomat I want to be. He wielded American influence through respect rather than intimidation and swagger."
A blond man in a black outfit is climbing the hill. He is not hurrying. At the top of the hill, he turns left, toward the field where the kids have staked their tents. Last night, when low clouds curtained the moon and stars, those tents glowed red and blue and yellow from the lamps lit inside, and Adrian marveled at how pretty they were. Like Chinese lanterns, he thought. Now he’s stepping around them, walking backward parallel to and ten meters off of the path. The man appears to be dressed in a police commando’s uniform: black trousers over what seems to be a black wet suit, a vest with many stuffed pockets and the word politi on the right breast, a backpack. He also is carrying two guns—a rifle with an elaborate sight and a bayonet affixed to the muzzle and, in his right hand, a pistol. Adrian stoops into a half-crouch. He now suspects that he should, in fact, be afraid. But why would a policeman shoot people? This must be a prank, he tells himself.
—From GQ correspondent Sean Flynn’s account of the massacre at a summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utoya, when a right-wing terrorist murdered dozens of people, mostly teenagers, in a single, terrible afternoon