He was the young man, the boy really, clinging helplessly to the tail of the US C-17 as it took of from Kabul's airport before falling, falling to his death on a roof below.
Later the BBC added a name, Zaki Anwari, and photo of him on the soccer field where he'd been a member of the country's junior team. And that was where his story seemed to end. A boy terrified of the Taliban; desperate to escape; seeking freedom.
Like almost everything in Afghanistan, however, the real story is never quite as it seems.
Laila Rasekh has pieced together what really happened for Foreign Policy, a magazine founded in 1970 in the midst of another American (and Australian) debacle, the West's failure in Vietnam.
Anwari never intended to leave the country when he woke and ate breakfast with his family that morning. Later he was at his brother's shop as the rumours began to swirl: the Americans were loading people on evacuation flights. The family met quickly. Another brother, Nasir, had been working in the Gulf states and possessed a passport. He would go to the airport and try his luck. Anwari would drive.
He parked the car at the wall surrounding the strip, and his two brothers left for the main gate. Then Anwari heard there was a gap into the airport. He ran through and onto the field, phoning his mother as he ran. "Give me your blessings. I am near the plane. Inshallah, I am going to enter the plane."
"No," she begged him. "Come home!" But caught up in the moment, imagining a future, Anwari clutched onto the plane, hoping he could hold on all the way to a new life.
Those were his last words.
Others never had any chance. Former Australian human rights commissioner Chris Sidoti describes how the federal government dithered as 90 people who'd been investigating Taliban killings desperately sought evacuation. Eight other countries found room for about half of these people; meanwhile our flights were leaving with empty seats. About half the staff were left behind.
So while it's marvellous Foreign Minister Marise Payne did act so some disabled sportspeople could leave, it's utterly wrong to imagine Australia finished its mission well. A few wonderful individuals did return, committed to assisting people they knew were highly at risk. That effort was their own. In the end the government concentrated on ploughing its narrow furrow, unconcerned about anything happening elsewhere.
Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel captured this discrepancy between high-sounding rhetoric and tightly focused reality some 460 years ago.
He painted Icarus, the boy in Greek mythology who flew using feathers glued into huge wings. He soared up, higher and higher, while his father called for him to come down.
Instead, caught up in excitement, Icarus flew on until the sun melted the wax and the boy plunged suddenly to earth. This is the moment Bruegel captures in his painting, but our eyes are drawn, instead, to the way elsewhere life just continues as normal. In the foreground is a ploughman going about his business digging in the field, while a shepherd gazes elsewhere. They're oblivious to the human tragedy occurring in front of their eyes.
After telling us the deaths, the billions, and the war itself were important, it now seems as if perhaps they weren't. Government looks elsewhere.
We like to pretend we're in control of events; that our lives matter; that we can make a difference. Some individuals did. A few Australians travelled there to assist, and in time their stories will be revealed. It's sad, however, that this achievement came from individual efforts rather than national ones. Yet fluke, chance and luck appear just as important as planning and design when individuals get caught up in the churning whirlpool of massive events.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott was spot on when he spoke at the Australian base at Tarin Khot in 2013. We departed, he ventured, "not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here". Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy.
With the exception of the provincial capital itself, the Taliban have long controlled the rural districts of Uruzgan. When, finally, their sandy pick-ups drove up from the south, the governor welcomed them in. A month before he had been proclaiming loudly how he'd defeat the insurgency, but who can blame him? The last time the government changed, back in 2001, the Taliban commander had been tied to a vehicle's bumper bar and driven round and round the central intersection, until his battered and bloody body was cut free and hung on a lamp post to prove democracy and progress had finally arrived.
The point of all this is not to simply shrug and insist this is the Afghanistan way; always has been and always will. Or that we should never have attempted anything. It is, rather, that we never admitted our incapacity or recognised, by the time our intervention was translated into action on the ground, the means of accomplishment had become so corrupted by compromise they could never be humanised.
The real question here is one of legitimacy. The Afghan government had none. We held rigged elections and installed kleptocratic leaders who perpetuated and intensified inequality. Money was pumped in and, bizarrely, we were surprised when corruption bloomed. Humanitarianism took on its own violent logic. We justified murder to defeat the Taliban and were shocked when it didn't.
Cultural change can never be achieved by violence. President Biden is right to insist "the idea we're able to deal with the rights of women around the world by military force is not rational". It was the wrong answer to the problem. Now the problem has changed, as starvation and despair again stalk the capital.
Sadly, those whose lives intersect with geopolitics will be left chewed up in the maw of the beast. The planes will not stop; they will fly on, regardless of the hopes or dreams of those clinging to the wheels.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer and a regular columnist.