Marie Colvin, an award-winning journalist who worked for Britain’s The Sunday Times, died Wednesday from government shelling in the city of Homs. A French photojournalist was also killed. Two others, another journalist and a photographer, were injured.
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Colvin, 56, grew up in Oyster Bay. She was one of five children and graduated from Oyster Bay High School in 1974 and then went to Yale. She was an anthropology major and it wasn’t until after she attended a journalism seminar at Yale that she developed her passion for reporting.
Colvin had been working for The Sunday Times for more than 25 years. She was at the forefront of international reporting and lost her eye from a shrapnel wound in Sri Lanka in 2001.
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Her final report from Syria, which was published in The Sunday Times last week, chronicled what she called “The widows’ basement,” a cellar where women and children seek refuge from bombing in the same city where Colvin herself would later be killed.
“The widows’ basement reflects the ordeal of 28,000 men, women and children clinging to existence in Baba Amr, a district of low concrete-block homes surrounded on all sides by Syrian forces. The army is launching Katyusha rockets, mortar shells and tank rounds at random,” Colvin wrote. “It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and bursts of gunfire.”
Colvin’s family didn’t know she was in Syria until they saw her on CNN Tuesday night with Anderson Cooper, who asked her to compare the fighting in Syria with some of her other war assignments.
“The Syrian army is basically shelling a city of cold, starving civilians,” she said. “Every civilian house on the street has been hit.”
As Colvin described the destruction throughout the city, she said the building where she was staying was also hit.
Colvin’s mother Rosemarie, who lives in East Norwich, says she got the call around 5 a.m. Wednesday from an editor at The Sunday Times saying her daughter had been killed.
She said her daughter was planning on leaving Syria because of the growing danger in the country.
“She was supposed to be leaving today because yesterday they felt that it had gotten too dangerous but she wanted to finish the story she was on, she felt it was a very important story and that she would leave today, ” Rosemarie said.
She said her daughter was dedicated to her work and let nothing stop her.
“She was just a beautiful person and she was so talented and brilliant but she was also so dedicated to what she did, to really getting at the truth of everything she was going to write about,” Rosemarie said. “That’s just how she was.”
After learning of Colvin’s death, editor of The Sunday Times John Witherow, issued a statement that said in part:
“Marie was an extraordinary figure in the life of The Sunday Times, driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered. She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice. Above all, as we saw in her powerful report last weekend, her thoughts were with the victims of violence.
Throughout her long career she took risks to fulfill this goal, including being badly injured in Sri Lanka. Nothing seemed to deter her. But she was much more than a war reporter. She was a woman with a tremendous joie de vivre, full of humour and mischief and surrounded by a large circle of friends, all of whom feared the consequences of her bravery.”
Rupert Murdoch, who owns The Sunday Times, also issued a statement to staff:
“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of Marie Colvin, one of the most outstanding foreign correspondents of her generation, who was killed in Homs in Syria today while reporting for The Sunday Times,” Murdoch said in his statement. “Our immediate thoughts are with her family.”
Officials with the paper said one of their photographers, Paul Conroy, was with Colvin and was injured. Both Murdoch and Witherow said they are working to bring him home safely.
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