It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and bursts of gunfire. There are no telephones and the electricity has been cut off. Few homes have diesel for the tin stoves they rely on for heat in the coldest winter that anyone can remember. Freezing rain fills potholes and snow drifts in through windows empty of glass. No shops are open, so families are sharing what they have with relatives and neighbours. Many of the dead and injured are those who risked foraging for food.
— Marie Colvin, writing (£) for The Sunday Times last week from Homs in what turned out to be her final dispatch.
From the ST editor’s eulogy (£) today:
Marie’s mother hadn’t even tried to dissuade her from going to conflict zones. “If you knew my daughter,” she said, “it would have been such a waste of words. It just wasn’t something that would even be on the plate at all. She was determined; she was passionate about what she did; it was her life. There was no saying, ‘Don’t do this.’ This is who she was, absolutely who she was and what she believed in: cover the story. Not just have pictures of it, but bring it to life in the deepest way you could.”
John Cassidy writes:
We all have to die sometime. Marie died doing what she loved, what made her feel most alive, what turns journalism from a job into something bigger and more noble: a mission.
And she was right to judge her work to be so important. As I’ve blogged before, it almost seems an Iron Law that without journalists feeding us information, action to relieve oppression abroad will never materialise. That doesn’t mean reports are sufficient. But if people like Colvin didn’t do the work they did, nothing would ever be done.
How one comes to make such a personal sacrifice for the sake of a greater cause; how one grows to identify with the suffering of others to such an extent that one can no longer live comfortably in the First World, and instead only feel at ‘home’ when on the ground susceptible to the callousness of tyrants when one could quite easily quit at any moment unlike everyone else dying around you – I guess that’s the mystery of the Foreign Correspondent. I will have read Colvin’s reports every Sunday over the past few months without realising it was always the same writer. But now I’ve been made to stop and think about the name behind the reports, it’s hard to not be in awe of how impossible but incredible her character must have been.