For those working in the energy industry in unstable countries around the world, the risk of terrorism is a daily reality. Miners who have lived with such risk would have been particularly alarmed by news of the January 16 attack on the gas plant in In Amenas, Algeria. We were also concerned.
In the days following the violence, as the media released names of the casualties, we were somewhat relieved to find no alumni mentioned. Then on January 20, Michael Long ’72, who had worked at the In Amenas facility 1998-2000, forwarded us an email from Greg Staff ’73, linking to a Fox News article about the narrow escape of Steve Wysocki ’85.
It was several weeks later that we finally spoke to Kristi Wysocki ’84 and learned that not only had her husband been at the facility, but so had Nick Frazier ’03 and former Mines student Christoph Zinner. She narrated the events in excruciating detail, having been in touch with Steve verbally and via text message from the first minutes of the attack. She added that all three were currently together in Oregon, attending a memorial service for their boss and colleague, Gordon Rowan, who was killed in the attack.
Imagining the horror of their experience, I came away from the call feeling a little overwhelmed; in the days that followed, this was replaced with a growing sense of responsibility to report their story in a compelling manner that honors their experiences without sensationalizing. I hope you’ll agree that author Lisa Marshall achieves this precarious balance with remarkable skill.
After reading her article for the first time, I kept returning to something Frazier said: “No one can ever understand what it was like, and how you feel afterward, except the guys who were there. I’ll be in touch with them for the rest of my life.” The words caught my attention because, in addition to pointing to the inseparable bonds that often exist between fellow survivors, he also references the isolation that trauma can create. It seems cruelly ironic that after deeply disturbing events, when the empathy of family, friends and community is most needed, it can be harder than ever to reconnect, because so few people can understand what the victims have gone through.
While we can’t ever fully communicate the horror of the attack, we sincerely hope that our account goes some way toward expanding awareness of what these three individuals and their families have endured. We also hope that it provides an opportunity for the community to come together in a show of support. If you’d like to do this, one easy way add your comments at the end of the story. You can also email us and we’ll share your message as appropriate.
Thank you for taking the time to honor and support our own.
Editor and Director of Communications
Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association