Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, both 29, quit their jobs in order to take a year bike trip. The couple planned on seeing distant parts of the world. Their trip took a fatal turn, though, when the pair rode too close to territory controlled by ISIS. The couple was ambushed on the road and the terrorists stabbed both of them to death.
Before their deaths in Tajikistan near the Afghan border, Austin and Geoghegan were leading fairly typical lives. “Austin was a vegan who worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Geoghegan, a vegetarian who worked in the Georgetown University admissions office,” The Daily Wire writes.
“I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige. I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned. Too many thunderstorms went unwatched, too many gentle breezes unnoticed,” Austin wrote on his blog back in June of 2017.
The bike trip was truly epic. The couple planned to be gone for more than a year. They would ride “from the southernmost tip of Africa in Capetown, South Africa, to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Montengro, Kosovo, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and finally Tajikistan, where they were murdered along with two other cyclists, one from Switzerland and the other from the Netherlands,” DW notes.
Austin chronicled his journey. While in Moroco, he wrote:
“You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. People are axe murderers and monsters and worse.”
“I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own—it’s easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it. Badness exists, sure, but even that’s quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.”
That sentiment seems woefully naive now. There are, both in this country and in other countries, people who embody the opposite of these character traits.
“On the television across the room,” Austin wrote later, “Al Jazeera plays softly. Donald Trump has just announced his plans to move an embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the Muslim world is visibly upset. Leaving Rabat a week earlier, we’d pedaled right by a massive peaceful demonstration against the relocation. The television broadcasts footage of protests just like that one stewing up all across the Maghreb, the Middle East, and beyond. As a clip plays of a sullen Trump waddling across the screen, I do my best to disappear into the soft plush of the couch cushion behind me. But American as we may be, no one here seems to mind.”
The murder happened on July 29 of this year. The couple and two others were riding in Tajikistan. They were near the border with Afghanistan, and close to an area that remains in ISIS control.
As they were riding, a car passed them and then turned around. It rammed into the group. five men jumped from the car and attacked. All of the cyclists were stabbed to death.
After the killings, ISIS released a video of the attack. It also showed the five men who carried it out, before the attack, vowing to kill “disbelievers.”
The car used in the attack was found. Authorities managed to arrest one man, and killed another who fled. Three are still at large.
The journey of Austin and Geoghegan must have held many moments that confirmed their world-view. The ending, though, has only confirmed the reality so many have warned of for so long.