Reporter's Notebook: Friend Killed In Iraq Bombing

Aftermath of the Hamra Hotel bomb blast i i

An Iraqi man walks past a municipal worker clearing debris a day after a bomb blast near the Hamra Hotel in Jadriyah. One of the 25 who were killed was a colleague and a close friend of NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. Ahmad Al-Rybaye/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Ahmad Al-Rybaye/AFP/Getty Images
Aftermath of the Hamra Hotel bomb blast

An Iraqi man walks past a municipal worker clearing debris a day after a bomb blast near the Hamra Hotel in Jadriyah. One of the 25 who were killed was a colleague and a close friend of NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.

Ahmad Al-Rybaye/AFP/Getty Images

I first met Yasser in 2003 just after the fall of Baghdad. He was hired as a driver for my partner, a correspondent for The Times of London.

When he was serious, Yasser looked intense and watchful, but when he laughed he emitted a high-pitched giggle that was incongruous but infectious.

He was fearless and saved my life many times. On one terrifying occasion he swerved the car away from a knife-wielding attacker who wanted to steal the vehicle.

In Iraq, the people you work with hold your life in their hands. Yasser took that role extremely seriously. He was loyal, devout, kind and curious.

We became close. I met his family, ate at their home, traveled with him across the country on assignments. I often spent more time with him than with my own family.

And over the many years I lived in Iraq, he was a steady presence in the almost unimaginable chaos. His English wasn't the best — he used to call me "prince," though I knew he meant "princess."

On Monday, he had just returned to the Hamra Hotel compound when a minibus drove up near him and exploded. He had been out interviewing Iraqi soldiers about the ability of bombers to go through checkpoints undetected.

In the frenzied aftermath, I was running around trying to find out what happened when I saw his brother. He asked me if I had seen Yasser, who was nowhere to be found.

After a day of searching in hospitals, Yasser's family finally found enough of his body to make an identification.

He was buried in Najaf yesterday in the Valley of Peace — the vast Shiite cemetery that is the final resting place of so many of Iraq's recent dead.

Yasser died on my first day back in Iraq after an eight-month absence. I didn't have a chance to see him.

The Iraq war is slowly fading from America's newspapers and consciousness. Military men and politicians say it's better here now, and indeed, these days there is less death.

But people are still being killed. On Monday, I happened to know one of them.

The legacy of the Iraq war is measured in these losses. The people who have died here cannot be forgotten.

And I will not forget my friend, Yasser.

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