When you die, if you’ve lived a good life, people will grieve. Your family and friends will meet in a church or a synagogue or a funeral home to pay their respects. At some point, an announcement will appear in a local paper. The news of your passing will spread. Eulogies may pop up on the Internet from long-forgotten friends. Your death, in other words, won’t be a solitary event.
When Jennifer Lynne Matthews—a mother of three from Fredericksburg, Virginia—died, there was no such public mourning. For the outside world, the tributes were very brief. Her family members were unwilling to share their memories. No obituary was written. And yet her death was noted by some of the nation’s most powerful officials—including the President—and her life was saluted with a star on a memorial wall.
Matthews was a daughter, a mother, a wife. And last December, she was one of seven Central Intelligence Agency employees killed in Khost, Afghanistan, by a man who blew himself up after being welcomed onto an American military base.
Matthews died doing work she believed in. She died trying to find the people who’d attacked her country on September 11, 2001. But—in tribute to the silent spirit with which she worked and as consequence of the botched operation in which she lost her life—the CIA, the Obama administration, and Matthews’s family would prefer that’s all you ever know about her.