I don’t have too many heroes, and in fact most of the ones I do have either died of drug overdoses, self inflicted gunshots or, in one case, assassination by the CIA.
Anthony Shadid may have been the only wholesome hero I ever had. He died last week in Syria, covering the ongoing unrest under the oppressive Bashar al-Assad regime. He is survived by his wife and two children. He was just 43.
I had breakfast with Anthony in Beirut about six years ago. He had spoke at one of my media courses at American University of Beirut and I ran after him when class ended to see if he would meet up for a drink or whatever. He said he had time the following morning, so I set two alarms and ran out the house, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Over breakfast on Bliss Street we talked about his coverage of Iraq, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. He was always putting himself in harm’s way, and I admired that. It was part of why I had gone to Beirut in the first place: seeking out action. But his approach wasn’t like mine. He wasn’t looking to send postcards back from “The Edge” because he was an adrenaline junkie like myself. He did it because he was concerned with the world and he knew he was among the few equipped and willing to share uncomfortable but relevant truths about a very troubled region that’s widely misunderstood by the so-called West. He regaled me with stories of getting shot by an Israeli sniper in the West Bank, and gave me inside information on the realities of life in Baghdad. I was both honored and humbled to speak with him about it. Years later, I listened to his interview about being kidnapped and nearly killed in Libya by Gaddafi loyalists. His bravery was comparable to madness, but I suppose it’s a fine line we all walk. Few ever walked it so well as Shadid.
Listening to NPR yesterday while writing about being an irresponsible drunk of a skater in New Orleans, I heard of his death and I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I cracked a beer and I cried, feeling a terrible sense of loss not for myself, but for everyone. He was a great journalist and an admirable man.
I wish I was more like him.
David Larson is an impulsive person who writes sometime.