'Times' Reporter Dies After Asthma Attack In Syria

Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid died from an asthma attack after slipping into Syria on Thursday. He told the stories of those caught in — and trying to break free from — oppressive regimes and wartime violence. He was working for The New York Times. Shadid was 43.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This morning we're remembering a journalist we've heard from many times over the years reporting on the Middle East.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CLIPS)

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Anthony Shadid of The New York Times is following all these events from Lebanon. And he...

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

...Anthony Shadid who's joining us by phone from Cairo.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Now to Damascus for reaction...

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

...situation with Anthony Shadid who's covered Iraq for years. He is now The New York Times...

MONTAGNE: Anthony Shadid was among the finest foreign correspondents of his generation. He worked for The Washington Post, the Associated Press and others before moving to The New York Times in 2009. His work embodied the best of what a foreign correspondent can do in a string of complicated and dangerous places: tell stories of those caught in and trying to break free from oppressive regimes and wartime violence.

He was 43 when he died yesterday, on assignment in Syria.

Our Kabul bureau chief, Quil Lawrence, knew Anthony Shadid for more than a decade, and shared a home with him in Baghdad.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Anthony was probably the greatest reporter I've ever met, and yet completely unassuming, not grandiose. Whether he was sitting, talking with an ambassador or sitting, talking with an Iraqi farmer in the middle of a field, he was humble and he was curious - genuinely curious about these people's lives. And he would ask simple questions and just listen.

MONTAGNE: Shadid was born in Oklahoma City, where his grandparents emigrated from Lebanon. He spoke fluent Arabic and his first foreign post – in the mid-90s - was in Cairo. He went on to earn a Pulitzer Prize, and then another, for his reporting from Iraq.

David Hoffman was a foreign editor at The Washington Post.

DAVID HOFFMAN: When the bombs were falling, he stayed there in the center of Baghdad, and day after day, wrote stories about the Iraqi people. And it was kind of a little window on the front page every day, amid all the tumult of the war news and the violence. He focused very patiently and at great risk, on what this meant to be an Iraqi sitting in the darkness of that war.

MONTAGNE: Of course, being in dangerous places often put Shadid himself at serious risk. In 2002, he was shot while working in the West Bank. Last year, covering the Arab Spring, he and three other colleagues at The New York Times were kidnapped in Libya by Gadhafi-loyalists.

Last December, he spoke on WHYY's FRESH AIR with Terry Gross.

ANTHONY SHADID: It's hard not to feel, with so many people making so many sacrifices around you, of countries in such tumult and so much dynamism going around you, that you really more than ever before have to get this right. You have to do justice to what you're seeing. And I think that sometimes does figure into your thinking, that you end up taking risks that you might not have otherwise.

MONTAGNE: On what turned out to be his last assignment, Anthony Shadid, in Syria, and a New York Times photographer, were being smuggled out of country by men on horseback. He suffered a severe asthma attack hours from a hospital in Turkey and he couldn't be revived.

He leaves behind his wife, fellow New York Times journalist Nada Bakri and two children. His new book, "House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East" is due out next month.

Again, NPR's Quil Lawrence.

LAWRENCE: I'm devastated by the loss of such a good friend. And also, I'm in pain for the loss, honestly without melodrama, that this is to the Western world and its understanding of the Arab world.

MONTAGNE: Reflecting on the Arab Spring in the FRESH AIR interview, Shadid recalled a moment he found inspiring.

SHADID: What I got to see in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, in January and February, this idea of a new notion of community coming together; a community defining itself on its own terms, a youthful generation, you know, determined to create a place they would live in that was far better than the place their parents lived in.

MONTAGNE: Foreign correspondent, Anthony Shadid. He died in Syria yesterday.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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