Terror and friendship in Algeria

How three individuals, linked by their Mines experience, supported each other through the most terrifying ordeal of their lives

By Lisa Marshall

The first rounds hit the bus with a deafening bang, prompting Nick Frazier ’03 to assume with annoyance that a tire had blown and his errands in the nearby town of In Amenas, Algeria, would be delayed. Glancing out of the window, he saw a blur of red streaks piercing the dark desert sky. When the glass around him started shattering, the reality of his situation broke through: The bus was under attack.

With the 11 other passengers already scrambling to lie flat in the aisles, he squeezed into a tight stairwell and began tapping out a carefully worded text message to his wife back home: “Call U.S. embassy. Bus under attack.” He would spend the next 3 hours crouched there, still and silent, as Al Qaeda militants showered the vehicle in gunfire and launched at least one rocket-propelled grenade.

“I didn’t want to give in or let go of hope,” recalls 33-year-old Frazier.

The pre-dawn bus attack at the In Amenas gas facility on January 16, 2013, was just the beginning of a bloody four-day kidnapping siege that would leave 37 foreign workers—including three Americans—dead, and shine a glaring light on security issues in politically volatile areas where many petroleum engineers work. Two Colorado School of Mines alumni—Frazier and Steve Wysocki ’85—and one former Mines exchange student, Christoph Zinner, survived by working together, sharing information and planning their escape. Tragically, they would lose several close friends, including their boss, Gordon Rowan.

Read the rest of this story on the Mines magazine website.

This story appeared in the Summer 2013 issue.