A Tribute to Marie Colvin
By Paul Conroy, Author of “Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment”
How does one pay tribute to a friend and colleague lost in such terrible circumstances? It would be an easy option to say she died doing the job she loved, but that isn’t strictly true. For Marie, reporting was never a job in the truest sense of the word, it was her life, the driving force behind her very being.
I remember the evening before her death last February, we were trapped in Baba Amr, Homs, and the shelling had reached a crescendo which neither of us, in our combined experience, had ever witnessed. Wrapped in a think blanket against the biting cold Marie asked me, “Would you still be here if you weren’t being paid?” I nodded I would. Marie replied, “I thought so.” I never had to ask her the same question — I already knew the answer.
That exchange reaffirmed what I had known for many years. For Marie it wasn’t the money, I’m not sure I know any wealthy foreign correspondents, nor the prestige. It was purely a passion for a the story that pushed her, not only to enter the most hostile and dangerous of environments to report, but also to remain there when the odds were seemingly stacked against her. Many editors will attest to Marie’s ability to become ‘un reachable’ when it suited her purpose, normally when asking her to get out of a clearly deteriorating situation.
In Baba Amr, whilst trapped in the media centre due to the ferocious bombardment, I heard a Skype call coming through, it was Sean Ryan, Foreign editor of The Sunday Times. Marie looked mortified, she knew the call would be a plea for us to get out as soon as was possible. “Tell him I’m not in,” quipped Marie. I asked her, “Should I tell him you are out shopping?” Marie laughed, “tell him anything,”
I have worked with many conflict reporters, photographers, cameramen, security guards and local fixers over the years, each and every one of them brave, honest and noble in their own right. It seems somewhat unfair to single out any individual out for special praise. I’m sure though that to a person everyone of those who put their lives of the line daily, would attest to the fact that Marie Colvin was an exemplary case and to pay her special tribute is a fitting act.
She understood, and felt, fear in a way that few people ever will. I could read it on her face, I recognised the same fear within myself, yet Marie understood her fears were not the story. In her own words, she was there to bear witness, to share the fear, horrors and suffering, felt by the innocent victims of war, with a world a thousand miles away.
Her tenacity was the stuff of legend, her interview technique involved teasing out information strand by strand, until she was completely satisfied there was no more to be had. She would then move on to the next person and start the whole process again. As a photographer this would often give me palpitations, I would sit and listen, one ear on the interview, one eye looking apprehensively at the fading light of the setting sun.
Often, whilst reporting from the frontline, she would sidle up to me and say, “Hey Paul, shall we go interview some local committee members?” the horror that registered on my face sent her in fits of hysterical laughter, I fell for it every time.
Marie Colvin Left a lasting impression on all whose paths she crossed, from Yasser Arafat to Colonel Gadaffi and on all of the godforsaken refugees and innocent victims of war, to whom she gave a voice. She was never hard to spot, and even harder to forget.
Marie has inspired a whole new generation of foreign correspondents, possibly the greatest legacy she could have left the world. With her loss, many of the darker corners of this planet, where once she would single-handedly shine a light, will remain in darkness. This is our loss, and the greatest tribute that we can pay her, is to ensure that we encourage the next generation of correspondents continue to go out into the world and to bear witness.
Marie Colvin didn’t die working, she died living.
© 2013 Paul Conroy, author of Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment
Paul Conroy, author of “Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment,“ is a former British soldier. As a photographer and filmmaker whose work spans 15 years, he has reported on the conflicts in Iraq, Congo, Kosovo, Libya, and Syria.
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