A moment-by-moment reconstruction of last year’s U.S. embassy attack in Kabul:

In an image that remained strangely fixed in her mind afterward, Howell watched as he slowly peeled the skin off. As he was peeling off the very last bit, there came a heart-stopping screech and then the bang and shock of an impact. Something had just blown up in her waiting room, and though the thick glass had protected the office, they had all felt the concussion and could smell the acrid stench of burning.

“That was an RPG!” one of her Afghan colleagues said as they scrambled to their feet. All Howell could think of was the other recent attacks in Kabul, where explosions had been a prelude to armed strangers coming in on foot and slaughtering anyone they could find. She called out to see if everyone was all right and then told her staff to evacuate. As they were moving toward the door, security officers came through, shouting, “Let’s go, let’s go!”

Howell glanced back at the glass that looked out on the waiting room, where the little girl had been playing before. There was just an opaque wall of smoke.

“The Siege of September 13.” — Matthieu Aikins, GQ

More GQ: “The Boy from Gitmo.” — Michael Paterniti, Feb. 1, 2011