Recently retired Kathy Gannon is an AP icon — she has had an unsurpassed view on the ground in Afghanistan for the past 35 years. So when an editor suggested she write a first-person piece reflecting on her decades of coverage, she stepped up with a vivid and intimate retrospective.

The story, full of personal anecdotes, brings Afghanistan's recent history to light, tracking the country’s slow descent into despair. The pacing is such that the piece reads like a narrative, leading with the gripping scene of the 2014 shooting that seriously injured Gannon and killed colleague Anja Niedringhaus, then taking the reader effortlessly through the country’s conflicts and shifting regimes. Like everything she writes, the piece focuses squarely on the people of Afghanistan, weaving in their stories and conveying Gannon’s respect for their kindness and resilience, even as hope fades.

The story scored at the top for reader engagement on the day that it ran, eliciting much response.