Slain in the prime of her selfless life

Marie Colvin

I am fascinated by war correspondents because they’ll stop at nothing to place themselves in harm’s way.  As bullets and missiles fly all around them and they’re engulfed by riots, they steadfastly give us the news. I’m not sure I admire them or think they’re a bit nutty; perhaps it’s a little of both. But I acknowledge they fill a critical need.  How else would we know about many of the atrocities taking place in war-torn countries?

Marie Colvin, a FOF killed yesterday by a Syrian artillery barrage, had a 30-year career reporting in war, most of it for The Sunday Times of London.   Blinded in her left eye by a shrapnel fragment during an ambush in Sri Lanka in 2001, she didn’t quit. “Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction, and death…and trying to bear witness,” she said in 2010, according to a story in yesterday’s New York Post. “It means trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes or terrorists clash.”

Divorced from her first husband (to a war correspondent), she was already in a severe depression from the episode in Sri Lanka, when her second husband (a Bolivian-born journalist and writer) shot himself. Not the stuff of fairy tales.

Watching a baby die was one of the last acts of horror that Marie witnessed before being slain. “Watched a baby die today,” she wrote. “Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless…Will keep trying to get out the information.”

Interviewed after her daughter’s death, Marie’s mother was the essence of grace as she talked of her daughter’s commitment to her career, which began when Marie was in her twenties. By the time Marie was 35, she was already a seasoned veteran of conflict in the Middle East. “Talking to her about the dangers of her job would have done no good,” her mother explained.  They clearly defined her life.

Again, I am saddened by the loss of another fine woman in the prime of her life.   And a distinguished, selfless life it was.

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4 Responses to “Slain in the prime of her selfless life”

  1. ZB WonderWoman says:

    Hate it when an amazing woman whose stories / lives we identify with leaves the room. That said, painful though her leaving was, she died doing what she loved.

    We should all be so lucked (and so blessed)!

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  2. Norma Byrd says:

    What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. Beautiful in every way. The world was a better place for her life, and a little sadder for the loss.

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  3. Eileen Davis says:

    Thanks for this essay, Geri — what a fine person and what courage and vision. I agree with you about the value of writers like Colvin, especially after reading a book I recommend to you and all, The Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn, by Caroline Moorehead (2006).

    Gellhorn was the third wife of Ernest Hemingway. They met during the Spanish Civil War where both he and she served as correspondents. Her genius was the one you describe — going behind the lines, into the homes and villages and hospitals, tracking the real stories of the people caught in the crossfire, while Hemingway covered the battlescenes. She believed that if she did not tell these stories, they would never be heard.

    She was a fascinating person with a brilliant mind and a lifetime of fine writing. Her letters tell the story of her life, her loves and her struggle to live her life fully and accomplish good things.

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  4. Geri Greene says:

    For her being someone I did not know, her death struck me in a very sad manner. In comparing my life with hers, mine paled miserably on the scale of adventure and accomplishment, but I had an entirely overwhelming admiration for all she had seen and done and risked so that my eyes could see only a small portion of what hers had. Then the obvious struck me as I realized what sacrifices she had made in losing one eye to a world that was not treating each other very well yet she returned to those scenes and her dedication to reporting atrocities.

    Learning only a few days ago, that her own mother said Marie had committed to return stateside within a day or two before she was killed, seemed the ultimate cruel irony in her life of adventure and justice. Never could I be so brave as she has been, and I am left to wonder what the defining moments of her life were to so propel her into that type of career.

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