NEW YORK (Jan. 12, 2012) -The Trinidadian and regional media and tourism fraternities are in a state of shock following the passing of veteran journalist and communications specialist Afzal Khan, who died of an apparent heart attack in Port-of-Spain over the weekend at age 55.

I met Afzal for the first time only a month ago at the Caribbean Media Exchange (CMEx) on Sustainable Tourism in St. Thomas and was thoroughly impressed with his commitment to the development of the Caribbean region and to working with young communicators, journalists and media practitioners.

In St. Thomas, Khan led a bright and engaging six-member delegation from the Tourism Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago. The delegation, including members of the Trinidadian media, participated actively and productively in the conference’s deliberations with articulate and thought-provoking interventions.

At Khan’s invitation, we even began talks about returning the 10-year-old CMEx symposium to Port-of-Spain in a year or two, and over the holidays I had prepared a correspondence to share with him in this regard.

Khan last communicated with me while in New Jersey after Christmas. “I wish you all success in 2012, Bevan, and may all your expectations ring true in 2012,” he wrote. He indicated that he was in Old Bridge and would spend a few days in Queens before heading home on Jan. 3. I, too, was heading home to Barbados on Jan. 2 and realized that we were unlikely to meet up given work and holiday commitments.

What I learned only recently was that Khan, along with taking a well-deserved vacation with his family, was in New Jersey shopping for toys for the three children of a 29-year-old woman who died in San Fernando two years ago after delivering her third baby via C-section.

“This is really tragic. I literally looked at his card last week and remembered his comments, as they were always well-thought-out. Life sends us messages constantly, and undoubtedly we’re being told life is not guaranteed. This is shocking news,” said CMEx delegate Barney Bishop, a public relations professional and graduate student at New York University.

Khan, a graduate of the Caribbean Institute of Mass Communications at the University of the West Indies (UWI), brought to the Tourism Development Company a wealth of experience, having served in newspaper, radio and television, starting as a reporter and moving all the way to corporate management.

An award-winning journalist and consummate professional, he worked with several international networks in television and radio. He also worked as a lecturer at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies as well as at UWI’s Open Campus in several fields related to mass communications, public relations and advertising, expository and report writing and critical thinking.

His passion, energy and insight will be remembered by us all. We extend prayers to his family and colleagues during this difficult time.

Gone too soon, Mr. Khan. May you rest in peace.