Sharon Herbaugh, the Bureau Chief of the Associated Press in Islamabad, was the bravest of the brave. Returning to Afghanistan again and again, despite admonitions from fellow journalists that Kabul was too dangerous, the world was no longer interested in the story and that there was not even running water to wash her hair, Herbaugh insisted that she had to cover the story herself.
On Friday an Afghan army helicopter carrying her and others smashed into a mountainside north of Kabul. There were no survivors among the 15 people on board, who included Natasha Singh, an Indian-born American freelance journalist, and their interpreter Mohammed Rafie. Initial reports spoke of an engine malfunction.
Herbaugh loved Afghanistan and its people and hated the bloodshed that was unfolding there. Her last story was called 'The Tragedy of Afghanistan', in which she wrote about the hell that Kabul has become after a year of civil war. She had also covered Pakistan intensely, first as a news editor of the AP bureau in New Delhi from March 1988 and then Bureau Chief in Islamabad since February 1990. Her six-year involvement with the Subcontinent meant that she had hundreds of friends in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Her office in Islamabad was the first place to touch base for visiting foreign journalists.
She started work for AP in 1978 after graduating. She was transferred to Dallas in 1979 and Houston the next year where she worked until 1986 when she joined the international desk in New York. Sharon Herbaugh was a workaholic, a big risk-taker, like any good journalist, and meticulous about her work to the point of obsession. She wrote beautiful prose and could transform normal, dull wire- service copy into incredibly lucid stories. Her stamina was extraordinary.
A quiet, unassuming woman, she was a great friend, a generous host and a warm and extremely caring person. Her good looks, her elegant style of dress and her long blond hair earned her the nick-name 'the Blonde Bombshell' from some colleagues. She will always be remembered for the dedication she brought to her craft, the joy she gave to her friends and her straight, bluff American manner.