She impressed me even then. Twenty-two-years-old and fresh out of Yale, Marie Colvin came to me looking for her first journalism job. As New Jersey state editor for United Press International, I hired her on the spot. I knew greatness when I saw it.
Marie, who served as a war correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, was killed yesterday during a shelling of the Syrian city of Homs, possibly the most dangerous place on earth right now. She was 56. The besieged citizens of Homs had cheered her arrival and that of photojournalist, Remi Ochlik, hoping that their horrific stories would finally appear on the world stage. Sadly, Ochlik was also killed.
No stranger to danger and seemingly having little fear, Marie was recognizable for the eye patch she wore. She had been covering the atrocities in Sri Lanka when in 2001 a grenade attack took out her left eye. Even an injury such as this did not deter Marie from her mission to report on the “real” events, no matter how dangerous. Many of the comments I’ve read online about her death say when one puts oneself in harm’s way like this, one has to accept the consequences. No one forced her to go into a war zone, they say, as if somehow this makes her death and others like hers, more acceptable.
I wish I could feel that way, too, but instead I keep picturing this beautiful, brilliant young woman sitting at the computer in our small bureau tucked inside the Trenton Times building.
She often worked the 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift at UPI and always greeted me with a smile. No hour was too early for her, no story too dull or too difficult. I knew I could always count on Marie to handle everything assigned to her with professionalism and enthusiasm.
All journalists survive on caffeine and Marie was no exception. She was so dependent on coffee that the first thing she did every morning was fill a king size mug of coffee and take it into the shower with her.
She was laid back, acting calm under wire service deadlines and breaking news and bringing serenity to a frenetic newsroom. Even her personal life had a peaceful quality to it. She’d tell me stories about her large family with whom she was so close. Working one Christmas Eve day I asked her if she had finished her Christmas shopping. “I haven’t started yet,” she replied. “Marie, you get off at 3:30, have to catch a train to New York and the stores close at 6 p.m., how will you get it done? It’s not possible!” In her usual modest, self-assured manner, she told me, “I will.”
The next day I saw her at work and asked how many gifts she had managed to buy before the stores closed. “All of them,” she told me. “There was never any doubt.”
The truth is I had no doubt either.
In a world that values knowledge, awareness and a free press, we have lost one of the very best. My deepest sympathies go out to her family.